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Chemistry is a subject that studies substances that exist in the universe and the changes of substances when there is interaction between substances.Chemistry is a tough and vital subject. Chemistry is branch of science that emphasize on basic structure and behavior of atom,the composition and characteristics of the compound,the reaction between a substance and regulations that bind these phenomenon to more comprehensive system. Most students see chemistry difficult and require a high imagination in understanding it.
In chemistry syllabus of KBSM, the topic of chemical bonding is a very abstract topic. As students cannot see an atom, its structure and how it interacts with other atoms, it is difficult for them to understand the concepts involved in the topic of chemical bonding and there is great potential for the formation of alternative conceptions (Boo, 1994; Butts & Smith, 1987; Goh & Chia, 1989; Taber, 1994, 1997, 1998; 1999; Tan & Treagust, 1999). Many past researches have shown students develop misconceptions in learning the topic chemical bonding. These misconceptions are held by students at different stages in which secondary students, undergraduate students, pre-service teachers and even worse in-service teacher.
Understanding chemical bonding is fundamental to success in chemistry (Hilton & Nichols, 2011, p.2215). Lack of understanding and having misconception in this topic might lead problem for students to understand others topic because chemical bonding topic is the basis of learning for the next topics such as carbon compounds, thermochemistry, polymers and inorganic chemistry.
1.1 Background of the Study
Many students agreed that chemistry is a tough subject,thus they become less interested in learning chemistry. When studying Chemistry, students often face problems because the contents of this subject consist of difficult concepts, complicated concept relativity and problem solving skills that require high level of thinking. Previous studies carried out by various researchers show that many students are not able to understand the concepts in chemical bonding. This shallow understanding have lead students to develop alternative conceptions. As reported by Peterson,Treagust & Garnett (1989), students think that all covalent bonds are formed through equal sharing of electrons and intermolecular bonding is stronger than intramolecular bonding (as cited by Hilton & Nichols, 2011) . While Boo (1998) found that students think covalent bonds are formed by one electron alone.
As we all know,chemistry is a subject that consists of many formula,rules,principles and problems to be solved. Students prefer to memorize the formula,theory,rules and calculation than understand certain theorem. A few research conducted showed that lack of comprehension in certain topic has lead students to memorize thing without understanding. This study aims to identify students' understanding in chemical bonding,difficulties and misconceptions faced by them during learning this topic and the factors that influence their understanding.
1.2 Statement of Research Problem
Students' level of understanding in chemical bonding is quite alarming. Based on Butts and Smith (1987) reported that students were confused about ionic and covalent bonds and structures. Of the 26 students (Grade 12) they studied, 10 referred to molecules in solid sodium chloride; some also conceptualized the sodium and chlorine atoms as being held together by covalent bonds. Only four students demonstrated a clear understanding of the three-dimensional lattice structure of sodium chloride (as cited by Boo, 1998, p.571). Some student mistaken type of bond formed between NaCl is covalent bond instead of ionic bond.
Students' basic ideas about covalent bond are also weak. This is supported by Barker (1994), only 18% of the respondents which consist of 16 years old students could distinguish between single and double covalent bonds in methane, ethene and water molecules (as cited by Kind, 2004). Students often relate sharing of electrons in covalent bond due to the octet rule rather than the electrostatic force exists. Taber (1998) reported one student wrote in a test paper, "A covalent bond is one in which two atoms join together by the sharing of electrons. Each of the atoms achieves noble gas configuration in the process of covalent bonding". The finding was also the same when Taber (1998) asked the respondents about ionic bond. The reason given by them is because the atom needs to get stable by achieving noble gas configuration.
Students' understanding in chemical bonding topic is closely related with their knowledge in electron arrangement, chemical formulae and chemical equation topic. Somehow, if students were not able to grasp the concept of those topics, they will tend to face difficulties in learning chemical bonding topic.
1.3 Objectives of the study
To identify concepts in chemical bonding that students found most difficult
To determine students' understanding levels in chemical bonding
To identify students misconceptions in learning chemical bonding
To identify the factors that influence students' understanding of chemical bonding
1.4 Research questions
What are concepts in chemical bonding students found the most difficult?
What are students' understanding levels in learning chemical bonding?
What are students' misconceptions in learning chemical bonding?
What are the factors that influence students' understanding of chemical bonding?
1.5 Significance of Study
This study is significant to both students and teachers as it will help in investigating understanding and the factors that influence students' understanding in learning chemical bonding. Students will be able to reflect on their strength and weaknesses in topic chemical bonding. Students also will be able to discover the effective learning styles that can help them in achieving good result in examination. Teachers will be able to identify students' learning difficulties and devise effective strategies for teaching. This study also helps teachers to know whether their approach and method of teaching is suitable or not. This study also hopes to help the educationalist and ministry of education to develop additional training programs for teachers on the appropriate method to be carried out in order to increase students' understanding in chemical bonding.
1.6 Limitation of the Study
This study has several limitations. This study will focused only on form four students. The sample of this study will rather be small. The finding of the study is of very limited scope therefore,the result cannot be generalized for all students in the school. This is because of the time constraint that does not permit the study to be carried on larger scale.Next limitation is geographical constraint. The sampling that will be used is convenience sampling. Form four students of Sekolah Menengah ................ will be used as the sample of my study.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The aspects of study will include level of students' understanding in chemical bonding,the most difficult concept in the topic,misconceptions held by students and factors affecting their understanding. This study focuses on form four students who are taking chemistry subject. The study will be conducted at school located in downtown of Shah Alam.
1.8 Definition of terms
There are several definition of terms in this study. The terms are as follow :
the ability to understand or comprehend something. In this context of study,understanding will refer to the ability of study to apprehend the concept of chemical bonding. Sample will be tested whether they are capable to solve questions about chemical bonding.
the students in this context of study refer to science stream form four students.