Facets of chemical bonding that enhance or encumber conceptual understanding
Abstract: Chemical bonding is a vast subject, rich in abstract concepts and advanced and less-advanced explanatory models that the learner has to master. In this context, the teaching of chemical bonding at the secondary school level is extremely important, as it has the potential to increase or hinder students’ further understanding of bonding. In the absence of firm knowledge and effective mental models of chemical bonding, it almost impossible to achieve significant results in any chemical field or application. In this work, which combines the pure chemistry of bonding with didactical studies, I have used database searches, questionnaires, interviews, and textbook analyses to investigate some of the more important aspect of chemical bonding. In the field of pure Science, bond length data have been analysed to ascertain the differences in bond strength between neutral and charged ligands in coordination compounds. While the bond strengths differ, the difference is not sufficiently large for the bonds to be classified as different types. In the didactical field, the conceptual models of students in South Africa and Sweden and underlying causes for these mind-sets, have been investigated. The results show that the different curricula and points of emphasis foster different patterns of understanding of the topic. One finding is that 55%–60% of the students exposed to any of the curricula have a molecular view of a salt that can be traced to visual representations of single ions or formula units of a salt. Therefore, it is important to understand how, when, and which models to use, in order to help students build a more advanced understanding of chemical bonding.
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