Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours


Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Dr Mark Hackling


Student misconceptions about two fundamental science concepts, osmosis and diffusion, were elicited using an interview-about-events approach. A concept map and list of 25 propositional statements were used to define the knowledge regarded as important for a sound understanding of the concepts of osmosis and diffusion. The interview probed students’ understandings of the propositions. Eighteen students from a local metropolitan high school were interviewed. These students were selected from four different science classes. Nine students studied Year 12 Biology and nine studied Year 12 Human Biology. Diffusion and osmosis are integral concepts required for thorough understanding of both subjects. The interview-about-events procedure elicited student understanding of the sub-microscopic processes operating within the concrete phenomena provided at various stages during the interview. Interview data were recorded on tape and later transcribed. Additional information was provided in the form of brief notes compiled at the time of the interview by the researcher and diagrams constructed by students to represent the molecular processes they thought were occurring in the phenomena being discussed. Coding categories for student responses were constructed using data from a pilot study. These categories were used to determine the frequency of different types of response elicited during the study. The investigation revealed that student misconceptions were most often based on poor understanding of the random and continuous nature of particle behaviour. A common student misconception described particles as failing to move independently of the body of matter in which they are contained. Many students believed that particles moved in a specific direction only if made to do so by some external force or if required to do so to establish an equilibrium concentration of solute particles. This thesis also describes implications for teaching and research, and limitations of the study.