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What Students Know


									What Students Know
  Constructivism and Preconceptions

• An epistemology which states that
  students are not “blank slates,” but
  actively construct their knowledge from
  their experiences of the world.
             John Dewey
• Problems should have
  personal meaning for

• Thinking arises when a
  learner confronts a

• The mind applies prior
  knowledge in the
  struggle for a solution
               Jean Piaget
• Knowledge arises from an
  interaction between individuals
  and their environment.

• Knowledge is not “out there,”
  but created and recreated
  internally from prior and new

• Development interacts with
  knowledge creation.
             Lev Vygotsky
• Knowledge is socially

• Imitation and modeling are
  critical in the learning

• The Zone of Proximal
  Development moves
  learners to increased
             Dave Ausubel

• “The most important
  single factor influencing
  learning is what the
  learner already knows;
  ascertain this, and
  teach him accordingly.”
Today’s Constructivism
• Knowledge is communicated, but not
  transmitted intact.
• A learner’s prior knowledge determines how
  the new ideas are interpreted.
• Knowledge is constructed as the learner
  creates links between new and prior
• Prior mental models create a filter through
  which new knowledge is interpreted.
    Mental Models?

Or Knowledge in Pieces?
       Mental Models
• The concept that students hold strong
  mental constructs of ways in which the
  world works. These constructs are highly
  resistant to change.
• Example: Many students and adults
  believe that summer is warmer than
  winter because the earth is closer to the
  sun, in spite of teaching to the contrary.
 Knowledge in Pieces
• The concept that a learner’s concepts
  are composed of small bits of
  knowledge, which are assembled on the
  spot when asked for an answer.
• Example: A student who is asked to
  predict the outcome of a physics
  demonstration and sees the prediction
  did not happen immediately comes up
  with a new, different explanation.
“What I know isn’t so!”
• Preconceptions are concepts that
  students hold prior to instruction, which
  may or may not reflect current scientific
• All people have “misconceptions,”
  because no one can know all there is to
  know about science — not even
Sources of Misconceptions
• Daily experience: “The moon grows and
  shrinks.” “The earth is flat.”
• Cultural ideas: “The stork brings babies.” “All
  wild mushrooms are poison.”
• Textbook diagrams: “Atoms, molecules, and
  cells are about the same size.”
• Personal theories: “Worms must be baby
Using Misconceptions

• Uncovering misconceptions allows
  teachers to apply a constructivist
  learning model.
• Once student misconceptions are
  known, teachers may be able to create
  lessons that test or confront the
Uncovering Student Ideas
 • Interviews: Used frequently in research.
 • Written surveys or tests: Limited by
   student writing abilities, but often used in
   conjunction with interviews.
 • Card sorts: Useful for examining
   personal categories of knowledge.
 • KWL charts: For assessing a whole
  Conceptual Change
• The Conceptual Change Model:
 • Student ideas must be made explicit.
 • Students are presented with discrepant
   events or ideas that challenge
 • Students struggle to create a new
   model, which must be fruitful for the
   student in order to be accepted.
        Feeling Stupid
• Students will only make their ideas
  explicit if they feel safe in doing so.
• Confronting misconceptions carries the
  danger of making students feel “stupid”
  when they find out that what they thought
  was so isn’t so.
• Students who feel stupid may shut down
  and even refuse to participate.
  Safe Learning Zone

• Teachers can create a “safe learning
  zone” by:
 • modeling conceptual change. “Wow,
   looks like my idea didn’t fit the data. I
   learned something!”
 • being willing to say, “I don’t know. Let’s
   find out.”

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