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South African Journal of Chemistry

On-line version ISSN 1996-840X
Print version ISSN 0379-4350

S.Afr.j.chem. (Online) vol.62  Durban  2009




Intellectual skills needed for the effective learning and application of chemical knowledge



Helen P. Drummond; Mailoo Selvaratnam

Department of Chemistry, North-West University (Mafikeng Campus), Private Bag X2046, Mmabatho 2735, South Africa




Many students' difficulties in learning and applying chemical knowledge are associated with their being incompetent in a few widely applicable intellectual skills and strategies. This paper discusses the results of a study that was done to test first year university students' competence in some types of intellectual skills that are important in chemistry. The skills tested include language skills, mathematical skills, graphical skills, three-dimensional visualization skills, information processing skills and reasoning skills. The study showed that the competence of most students in intellectual skills is very poor. This lack of competence could be expected to lead to negative attitudes and a lack of self-confidence that would seriously handicap their learning, and may also be an important reason for the observed high failure rate of students in science courses. The study also showed a significant correlation between success in first year university courses and competence in intellectual skills and strategies. It is strongly suggested that much greater emphasis should be placed in our courses on the development of students' intellectual skills and strategies. Such training should be integrated with the teaching of subject content.

Keywords: Intellectual skills, learning and application of chemical knowledge, problem solving



Full text available only in PDF format.




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Received 4 May 2009
Revised 23 September 2009
Accepted 23 September 2009



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