Investigating the Areas of Student Difficulty in Chemistry Curriculum: A Case Study in Qatar

Download Article

DOI: 10.21522/TIJAR.2014.05.02.Art003

Authors : Caleb Moyo


The exploratory study focused on the identification of difficult topics in Chemistry in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curriculum. A structured questionnaire was used to obtain data from thirty students by simple random sampling technique. Interviews and focus group discussions were carried out to seek clarifications on some of the responses to the questionnaire questions and to elicit detailed explanations of the causes of the perceived difficulties. A multiple-choice test was also administered for the purpose of triangulation. Frequencies and means were used to answer the research question. The findings indicate that the causes of poor performance could be categorised into five groups i.e.: nature of concepts, prior knowledge, access to the language of instruction, teaching processes and mathematical efficacy. The study recommends a more structured form of curriculum mapping of all topics and sequencing of topics over the two-year period of study of IGCSE Chemistry and suggests further research on misconceptions and their origins in the subject matter.

Keywords: chemistry, difficulty, concepts, abstract, igcse, sub-micro.


[1].     Banerjee, A. C. (1991). ‘Misconceptions of students and teachers in chemical equilibrium’. International Journal of Science education, 13, 4: pp 487 - 494.

[2].     Bodner, G. M. (1986). ‘Constructivism: A theory of knowledge’, Journal of Chemical Education. 63, 10, pp 873 – 878.

[3].     Gill-Perez, D.: 1996, ‘New trends in science education’, International Journal of Science Education, 18, 8, pp 889 – 901.

[4].     BouJaoude, S., & Barakat, H. (2000). Secondary School Students’ Difficulties with Stoichiometry. School Science Review, 81 (296), 91 – 98.

[5].     Coll, R. K., & Treagust, D.F. (2009). Learners’ use of Analogy and Alternative Conceptions for Chemical Bonding, Australian Science Teachers Journal, 48(1), 24 – 32.

[6].     Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, R. (2003). Research Methods in Education. (5th ed.). Routtlege Falmer, London & New York.

[7].     BouJaoude, S., & Barakat, H. (2003). Students’ Problem-Solving Strategies in Stoichiometry and their Relationships to Conceptual Understanding and Learning Approaches, Electronic Journal of Science Education, 7(3), online journal,

[8].     Christie, A. (2005). Constructivism and its implications for educators’ http://alicechristie.con/edtech/learning/constructivism/index, Gtm.

[9].     Furio, C., Azcona, R., & Guisasola, J. (2002). The learning and teaching of the concepts “amount of substance” and ‘mole’: a review of the literature. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 3, 277 – 292.

[10]. Mammino, L. (2010). The essential role of language mastering in science and technology education. International Journal of Education and Information Technologies, 3(4), 139-148.

[11]. Nakhleh, M.B. (1992).’Why some students do not learn Chemistry’, Journal of Chemical Education, 69, 3,191 – 196.

[12]. Ogunniyi, M.: Pupils’ ideas about selected Physical Science concepts’. Proceedings of the 8th annual SAARMSTE conference, ed. Mahlomaholo, S.

[13]. Treagust et al, (2003), ‘The role of sub microscopic and symbolic representations in chemical explanations’, 25, 11, pp.1353-1368, Routledge.

[14]. Doi: 10.1080/0950069032000070306.

[15]. Treagust, D.F.: (1998), ‘Development and use of diagnostic tests to evaluate students’ misconceptions in science’, International Journal of Science Education 10, 2, 159 – 169.

[16]. Tkachyk L, M. (2017). Perceptions of International Teacher Turnover in East Asia Regional Council of Schools.


[17]. Zoller, U.: (1990), ‘Students misunderstandings and misconceptions in college freshman chemistry’, (General and Organic), Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 27, 10, 1053 – 1065.