A 2 volume resource for classroom teachers

 Keith S. Taber

University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education


Chemical Misconceptions - Prevention, Diagnosis, and Cure (2 Volumes)" by Keith Taber, London: Royal Society of Chemistry 2002 Volume I: Theoretical Background, 180 pp.; Volume II: Classroom Resources, 238 pp. (English language.)  




Written by Dr. Keith S. Taber, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education.  These materials were developed during the author’s RSC Teacher Fellowship (the 2000-2001 academic year), when he was Visiting Fellow at the University of London Institute of Education.  They are the outcome of a project, fully funded by the RSC, ‘Challenging Misconceptions in the Classroom’.

The purpose and approach of the project is reported in a paper: ‘Constructing Chemical Concepts in the Classroom?: using research to inform practice’ published in the internet journal CERAPIE (Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. Eur.: 2001, 2, 43-51) and is available freely on the web at

The materials are published in two volumes.  The first book provides background based on current thinking about how learning occurs, and the types of ‘learning blocks’ that lead to ‘misconceptions’ in chemistry.  Key chemistry concepts (the particle model of matter, bonding, chemical change, chemical equations etc.) are discussed in some detail.  The discussion draws upon research evidence and data from the project itself: in the form of pupil responses to classroom probes.

 The chapter headings are:

Alternative conceptions in chemistry teaching; Concepts in chemistry; The structure of chemical knowledge; Overcoming learning impediments; Scaffolding learning in chemistry; Chemical axioms; Chemical structure; Chemical bonding; Chemical reactions; Constructing chemical conceptions.

 The second volume provides classroom materials for use when exploring and challenging pupils’ ideas and misconceptions about central chemical topics.  (These materials can also be down-loaded from the RSC website.)

 The classroom materials are entitled:

A reaction to form silver chloride; Acid revision map; Changes in chemistry; Chemical comparisons; Chemical stability; Completing word equations; Definitions in chemistry; Elements, compounds or mixtures; Examples of chemical explanations; Explaining acid strength; Interactions; Ionic bonding; Ionisation energy; Iron; Mass and dissolving; Predicting the melting temperature of carbon; Reaction mechanisms; Spot the bonding; Stability and reactivity; The atom and the solar system; The periodic table; Types of chemical reaction; Why do hydrogen and fluorine react?; Learning impediment record sheet

The publication appears to have been well received.  The Journal of Chemical Education’s website has a ‘Chemical Education Resource Shelf’ and named Chemical misconceptions : prevention, diagnosis and cure as its pick of the month for September 2002…

“Selection for September, 2002: I usually avoid writing in this space about materials that one might use directly in the classroom, since I am trying encourage teachers to expand their scope. However, this two volume set recently published by the Royal Society of Chemistry is enough to make me change the rules.  Keith Taber has clearly spent a great deal of time researching the causes of student misconceptions about chemistry.  The first volume of the set provides the basis for understanding impediments to student learning, and suggests strategies for overcoming them. Volume 2 is conveniently wire-bound to facilitate the copying of the worksheets, transparencies, and diagrams that it contains.  The books are both very oriented toward the development of mental models and pictorial representations of chemical systems, rather than the memorization of facts.  I will be using some of the materials from these two very interesting books in the workshops that accompany the introductory chemistry class I am now teaching.  Because chemistry is introduced to younger children in the UK than here, even more of the material could be used directly in junior high school or high school courses.  The principles of teaching apply at any level.  One can download student worksheets from this publication from the LearnNet Web site.” (Source of quotation - - accessed on 19th December 2002.)