Macro, submicro, and symbolic: The many faces of the chemistry "triplet"

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260 Scopus citations


The idea that chemical knowledge can be represented in three main ways: macro, submicro, and symbolic (chemistry triplet) has become paradigmatic in chemistry and science education. It has served both as the base of theoretical frameworks that guide research in chemical education and as a central idea in various curriculum projects. However, this triplet relationship has been the subject of different adaptations and reinterpretations that sometimes lead to confusion and misunderstanding, which complicates the analysis of the triplet's nature and scope. Thus, the central goal of this paper is to describe some of the existing views of the triplet relationship in chemistry and science education and critically analyse their underlying assumptions. We also propose a general structure of our chemistry knowledge intended to better situate the chemistry triplet in relationship with the different types, scales, dimensions, and approaches that seem to characterise such knowledge. Our proposed model may be useful in the analysis, evaluation, and reflection of educational research results and teaching practices centred on the triplet relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-195
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Chemistry education
  • Knowledge structure
  • Learning
  • Pedagogical content knowledge
  • Position paper
  • Science education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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