Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Open Access Thesis


This study focused on identifying misconceptions which high school AP and collegiate general chemistry students hold with regards to solution chemistry topics and comparing the misconceptions held by each student group. Previous research has found that misconceptions can greatly impact students’ understanding of material and have a negative impact on student learning. However, not all solution chemistry topics had been explored in previous research. In addition, it has been suggested that collegiate students have reached a higher level of cognitive development as they are older and more advanced in their studies. If this is the case, one could assume that the collegiate students would better able to comprehend complex chemistry topics and, therefore, hold onto fewer misconceptions over the course of classroom instruction.

P Chemistry students from three different high schools (n = 20) and collegiate general chemistry students from one university (n = 4) participated in this qualitative study. Students were asked to complete an open-ended, researcher-developed Solution Chemistry Questionnaire (SCQ) both before and after instruction. The questions were based around solution chemistry topics that were introduced and discussed during classroom instruction at both the AP and collegiate level. Students were then selected through the process of maximum variation sampling, based upon their pre- and postassessment responses. The selected students participated in a one-on-one semi-structured interview involving the same topics that were present in the SCQ. Misconceptions identified within all three phases of the study were used to determine trends and determine the overall results of the study. The five main categories which misconceptions were coded to include: structure of molecules, polar v. non-polar substances, types of solutions, colligative properties, and types of salts.

The results of this study support the idea that collegiate chemistry students are more advanced in terms of their cognitive development, specifically with regards to complex chemistry concepts. Collegiate students displayed a more complex understanding of solution chemistry topics, even though misconceptions were identified within both populations. AP Chemistry students displayed a wider range of misconceptions, while the misconceptions of students at the collegiate level were more uniform and based around more complex chemistry concepts.

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Science Education Program

First Advisor

Dawn Del Carlo

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (viii + 116 pages)