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Chemistry is a difficult subject to teach and to learn at both secondary and tertiary levels. Major learning difficulties are due to the particular views of chemistry phenomena that in many ways contradict intuitive and everyday views of the learners. As a result, major misunderstandings occur when students try to comprehend chemical explanations within the framework of their pre-instructional conceptions. This paper describes research findings on students’ pre-instructional conceptions in the domain of chemistry and on attempts to guide students from their conceptions to the core ideas of chemistry. Rather than providing an overview of students’ conceptions in various topics, we review learning difficulties from the perspectives of the challenge of multiple representations and the relation of chemistry to everyday experiences, including understanding the special language of chemistry. We believe that these perspectives contribute substantially to the limited success of teaching and learning chemistry.


This article was originally published in Educación Química, volume 11, issue 2, in 2000.

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Educación Química

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.