Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Mark Hackling


The process of balancing and interpreting chemical equations involves the consideration of an abstract, non-observable phenomenon coupled with multi-level representation. Students find it conceptually demanding to visualise the particulate level of matter and hence experience difficulty in balancing chemical equations with understanding. Interactive multimedia with dynamic computer graphics can provide students with accurate, concrete representations of the particulate nature of matter. Such tools, when coupled with appropriate implementation strategies, have the potential to improve learning about chemical reactions. The study investigated the use of scaffolding techniques to enhance and direct student learning when using an interactive multimedia software (IMM) program, Balancing and Interpreting Chemical Equations (Garnett, Hackling & Oliver, 1997a) designed to develop skills and understanding of balancing and interpreting chemical equations. This research was conducted as an interpretive, collective case study which was supplemented with data from pre and posttests. In this design, a total of 12 Year 10 students were selected by purposeful sampling, arranged in pairs and then randomly assigned to either using the specified IMM software with or without scaffolding. Students were observed by the researcher whilst using the IMM software and various student interactions were recorded by a variety of media, including screen-capture of their interactions with the IMM software, audio recordings of the interactions and collaborations between students in pairs, and videotape recordings of both the interactions and collaborations between students in pairs and between students and the IMM software. The data from these sources, in addition to data from the pre and posttests, was used to generate a case history file which was analysed to elucidate information about how scaffolding affects the way in which students interact with the IMM software; how scaffolding affects the way in which students interact and collaborate with each other whilst working on the IMM software; and whether there was any evidence of enhanced understanding of the particulate nature of reactions and success in writing and balancing chemical equations following the use of this IMM software with scaffolding. The research indicated that scaffolding affects the manner in which students interact with the IMM software by encouraging and directing more efficient and deliberate access to the salient features of the program at specific times in the learning sequence. The research also indicated that the level of collaboration between students working in dyads on the IMM software was influenced by the use of the scaffolds and that once applied, the fading of support in scaffolded worksheets did not result in a deterioration of the nature or extent of the interactions within the dyad. Finally, while the scaffolds did not always result in higher levels of cognitive achievement (compared to non-scaffolded instruction), they did enhance the IMM learning environment and the opportunity for conceptual change. The implications that arise from this research extend to the use of this IMM software in the classroom, teaching practices within an IMM environment, software designers, and for further research.