UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


The Project

"Young Children's Reasoning About Everyday Chemistry"

So what is the research about?

This study has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, RPG-115, and involves a collaboration with Dr Michelle Ellefson & Dr Keith Taber, from the INSTRUCT research group, at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. This inter-disciplinary project will combine cognitive psychology with education and chemistry, to explore children's knowledge of how substances mix prior to learning about chemistry.  We know very little about how children reason about everyday chemistry, in particular how younger children learn chemistry. Learning about children's natural approach to chemical phenomena before instruction is important for informing educational practice and for development of more effective teaching methods.

When a solid mixes with a liquid, it might dissolve in a solution, or suspend, with visible particles, or it may do nothing, just floating/sinking, or there might be a chemical reaction.  Our experiments consider how children predict mixture properties/outcomes from properties of the original substances, and from other mixtures outcomes, studying children's naïve understanding, as well as how they learn naturally.

This project seeks to study children's earliest understandings of chemical phenomena, with experiments investigating 3- to 12-year-old children's understanding of mixture phenomena.  Our studies investigate how children predict mixture properties from properties of the original substances and from properties of other mixtures.

Our research has been featured on the front page of the Leverhulme trust newsletter, and the write-up can be found on page 9.