Hacettepe Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi 21 : 113-120 {200l]

               HIGH SCHOOL                       STUDENTS'  MISCONCEPTIONS                                                     ABOUT
                                               SIMPLE ELECTRIC CIRCUITS

             LIsE ÖGRENCILERININ   BASIT ELEKTRIK DEVRELERI                                                                              ILE
                          ILGILI KAVRAM YANıLGıLARı

                                  Selen SENCAR*, Elif Esra YILMAZ** and Ali ERYILMAZ***

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to determine                                     1. INTRODUCTION:
9th grade students' misconceptions about simple electric
                                                                                         For about 20 years, the role of
circuits and to explore the relationship between these
misconceptions and some selected variables (students'                                 misconceptions in leaming science has been
gender and experience about electric circuits). Review of                             investigated extensively, Numerous interviews
literatureconceming simple electric circuits has shown that                           with students at various levels have been
high school students have many misconceptions about this
topic and in order to assess them, a diagnostic test was
                                                                                      conducted and it was found that misconceptions
develaped. The test, which was named as Simple Electric                               were frequent, The roots of misconceptions,
Circuits Concept Test, is formed of 13 practical and 8                                how they affect leaming of disciplinary
theoretical questions. Mareaver, a questionnaire was also                             knowledge and how they can be remedied have
given to students to determine their experience about
simple electrk circuits. The study took place during 2000-                            been investigated by many researchers
2001 fall semester with the participationof 76 high school                            (Chambers & Andre, 1995; Shipstone, 1988;
students. Results of analysis showed that high school                                 Cohen, Eylon & Ganiel, 1983; Heller & Finley,
students had considerable degree of misconceptions
conceming simple electric circuits and these
misconceptions were c10sely related with students' gender                                The term misconception refers to the ideas
and previous experiences about simple electric circuits.                              that studentshave about any phenomenathat are
     KEY WORDS: simple electric circuits, misconceptions,
gender difference, experience
                                                                                      inconsistent with scientific conceptions. The
                                                                                      goal of effectiye science instruction is to
ÖZET:         Bu çalışmanın         amacı lise birinci sınıf                          encourage the student to construct an
öğrencilerinin basit elektrik devreleri konusundaki kavram                            understanding that is generally consistent with
yanılgılarını saptamak ve bulunan kavram yanılgıları ile
cinsiyet ya da tecrübe arasında bir ilişki olup olmadığını                            accepted scientific theory. It is known that
ortaya çıkarmaktır. Yapılan kaynak taramaları sonucu lise                             studentsuse preexisting conceptions constructed
öğrencilerinin basit elektrik devreleri konusunda kavram                              from previous experience s to reason about
yanılgıları olduğu belirlenmiş ve bu kavram yanılgılarını
ölçen bir kavram testi geliştirilmiştir.          Basit Elektrik
                                                                                      newly presented science concepts (Driver &
Devresi Kavram Testi olarak isimlendirilen test, tecrübeye                            Easley, 1978; Zietsman & Hewson, 1986). Such
dayalı 13 ve teoriye dayalı 8 soru olmak üzere toplam 21                              preconceptions are often incorrect from a
sorudan oluşmaktadır. Öğrencilerin basit elektrik devreleri                           scientific viewpoint and can interfere with
hakkındaki tecrübelerini belirlemek amacıyla, kavram
testiyle birlikte bir anket verilmiştir. Çalışma 2000-2001
                                                                                      students leaming of science (Fredette &
güz döneminde, toplam 76 lise birinci sınıf öğrencisiyle                              Clement, 1981).
gerçekleştirilmiştir.       Yapılan     analizlerin     sonuçları
                                                                                         One active area of research on physics
öğrencilerde       sıklıkla    görülen    kavram       yanılgıları
belirlenmiş ve kavram yanılgıları cinsiyet ve tecrübeyle                              misconceptions is topic of simp1e electric
ilişkilendirilmiştir.                                                                 circuits. Research on students understandingof
      ANAHfAR       SÖZCÜKLER:           basit elektrik devreleri, kavram             science showed that studentshave wide range of
yanılgıları, cinsiyet farklılıkları, tecrübe
                                                                                      misconceptions in the area of simple eleetne
· Res. Assisı., METU, Faculty of Education, Secondary School Selence and Mathematics Education Depanment,                       Ankara
*. METU, Faculty of Education, Secondary School Science and Mathematics Education Depanment, Ankara
*..   Dr.   MFTU,   Faculty   of Education,    Secondary   School   Selence   and Mathematirs   Education   Department.   A.nkara
114                                Se/en Sancar   - Elif   Esra Yılmaz   - Ali   Eryılmaz
                                                                                                                [EdJ. 21

cireuits. According to these studies in the                              9. Resistance and equivalent resistance:
literature, students' common misconceptions                                 Students think that if the number of
about simple electric circuits are summarised                               resistance increase in a eireuit, equivalent
below:                                                                      resistance also increases as independent
      1. Sink Model: Students think that single                             fromtheir connection type (Chambers &
         wire connection allows electricity to sink                         Andre,1997).
         from power source to device, thereby                            10. Potential and potential difference:
         powering the device (Chambers & Andre,                             Students did not realise that brightness of
         1997; McDermott & Shaffer, 1992).                                  identical bulbs depends on how theyare
      2. Clashing Current Model: Students think                             connected into circuit not on where they
         that positive electrieity moves from the                           are connected (Shipstone, Jung & Dupin,
         positive terminal and negatiye electricity                         1988) .
         moves from the negatiye terminal and                            1~. Sequential reasoning: If a eircuit element
         they meet at a device and clash (Heller &                         changed in a circuit, students analyse
         Finley, 1992; Chambers & Andre, 1997).                            eircuit in terms of before and after current
      3. Weakening Current Model: Students think                           passes that place (Heller & Finley, 1992).
         that current flows in one direction and                       Main problem of the study is: "What are the
         gradually weakens because each device                     effects of gender and experience on 9th grade
         uses up some of the current (Heller &                     students' misconceptions about simple electric
         Finley, 1992; Chambers & Andre, 1997).                    circuits? " According to this main problem, the
      4. Shared Current Model: Students think that                 sub-problems are as follows:
         devices share current equally but less                          1. What are the students' misconceptions
         current tums to power supply (Heller &                             about the simple electric eircuİts?
         Finley, 1992; Charnbers & Andre, 1997).                         2. What is the effect of gender on students'
      5. Local Reasoning: When a change is made                             misconceptions about simple electric
         up in a eircuit, students often focus on the                       circuits?
         point where the change occurs; they do                          3. What is the effect of experience on
         not recognise that change made at one                              students' misconceptions about simple
         point may result in changes at other parts                         electric circuits?
         (Cohen, Eylon & Ganiel, 1983; Heller &
         Finley, 1992).
                                                                         2. METHOD
      6. Short eircuit preconception: Students
         believe that in a circuit, wire connection                      2.1. Subjects
         without devices attached to the wire can                     In this study, a total of 76 high school
         be ignored (Shipstone, Jung & Dupin,                      students including 38 ninth grade level students
         1988).                                                    from Anatolian High School in Ankara and 38
      7. Empirical Rule: Students think that the                   ninth grade level students from public High
         furtheraway the bulb is from the battery                  School in Adana participated where the number
         the dimmer the bulb (Heller & Finley,                     of males is 50 and number of females is 26.
         1992).                                                       2.2.lnstruments
      8. Students regarded battery as a constant                      Two instruments were developed for this
         current source rather than a constant                     study. One of them is Simple Electric Circuit
         voltage source (Cohen, Eylon & Ganiel,                    diagnostic test to assess students' conceptual
         1983; Heller & Finley, 1992; Psi110s &                    understanding about Simple Electric Circuits.
         Koumaras, 1988).                                          Test consisted of 21 multiple-choice items and it
                      High School Students' Misconceptions About Simple Electric Circuits                llS

includes two partS: First part is the practical            misconception that means that low scores
questions included 13 items and the second part            indicate few misconceptions and high scores
is theoretical questions with 8 items. The                 indicate more misconceptions.
practical questions assess the students'                      Furthermore, a 28-item questionnaire was
misconceptions about the practical use of the              developed to assess students' experiences and
components of simple electric circuits and                 interests towards simple electricity subject.
interpretations of these components. The                   Some items from this scale are given in
theoretical questions are also developed by the            Appendix B. Reliability estimates of these two
same reason for theoretical use of components              instrumentswere calculated by using Cronbach
(example for both types of questions can be seen           alpha coefficient and they were obtained as 0.74
in Appendix A). While the diagnostic test items            and 0.84 respectively. To check the face and
were constructed, the steps given below are                content vaIidity, tests were checked by two
followed:                                                  physics professors, one educator and one high
   I. All questions, found from literature                 school physics teacher.
      review, were categorised according to the                2.3. Procedure
      misconception models, which are written
                                                               Detailed Iiterature review about students'
      in the introductionpart,                             misconceptions on simple electric circuit was
   2. For each misconception i or 2 questions              done. All the available joumals and articles were
      were selected and the rest was eliminated,           obtained and examined one by one to find the
   3. For some models, questions were                      related research studies. While making this
      developed since there was not any                    Iiterature review, all of the misconception
      question measuring the corresponding                 models are determined and the questions are
      misconception model,                                 examined.
   4. In practical test, a battery and a bulb were             The     multiple-choice     questions     and
      used. Moreover, same type of bulbs and               altematives were classified according to the
      batteries were used in all of the questions          misconception models and then diagnostic test
      in order not to make the students                    was developed as explained before. Moreover,
      confused,                                            four different forms of the same test were
   5. In theoretical questions same type of                prepared by changing the places of questions
      resistance and the power supplies were               and altematives in order to get more accurate
      used with the same reason,                           results. This four form of diagnostic test was
                                                           appIied on 76 ninth grade-Ievel students in the
   6. In both practical and theoretical questions
                                                           presence of the researcher and theyare told that
      the students were asked if the circuit
                                                           scores of this test would not affect their physics
      would work,
                                                           grades in the course. In the questionnaire each
   7. The altematives indicated that the circuit           studentwrote down birth-date,gender. . .etc. The
      would or would not work and gave                     subjects were given 40 minutes class hour for
      reasons that were consistent with one of             completing the test. Af ter getting the data,
      the misconception modeL.                             diagnostic test and questionnaire of the each
    Students'    practical    and theoretical              subject were scored and data table consisting of
misconception      scores    were     calculated           gender, birth-date ete. was prepared. Statistical
separately. In other words, each studenthas two            analyses were carried out by using Excel and
different scores, one of which belongs to the              Statistical Package for Social Sciences.
practical and the other one belongs to the
theoretical part of the test. Moreover, these
scores were calculated by giving i pointfor each
116                                                                             Selen Sancar                  - Elif      Esra Yılmaz          - Ali   Eryılmaz
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          [EdJ. 21

           3. RESULTS                                                                                                                theoretical ones. Only in the sixth and ninth
           3.1. Deseriptive                           Statistics                                                                     misconceptions, the percentages of the students'
                                                                                                                                     misconceptions     in theoretical questions is
   Figure      presents the categories      of
                                                                                                                                     higher. For example, on practical part of the test,
misconceptions and percent of students having
                                                                                                                                     78 percentof the students thought that current
these misconceptions.      In that figure,                                                                        ml                 flows in one direction but graduaJly weakens
indicates   the i st misconception       ın                                                                       the                since each device uses up some of the cUlTenL
introduction part and likewise m2, m3, m4,                                                                        m5,                On the other hand, only 49 percent of them
m6, m7, m8, m9, mlü and mIl indicate                                                                              the                thought İn a same way İn theoretical part. Again,
corresponding      misconceptions      in                                                                         the                while 60 percent of the students thought power
introduction part. According to Figure ı, the                                                                                        supply as a constant CUlTent source on practical
percentages of the students' misconceptions in                                                                                       part of the test only 28 percent of them thought
practical questions are usually higher than the                                                                                       İn that manner on theoretical part.                                                                              ı

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     FIGURE                        1: The results of student misconceptions in practical and theoretical questions

         Figure 2 presents the frequency analysis                                                                                      misconceptions on the other hand, in theoretical
     results of students' misconceptions in practical                                                                                  part of the test most of the students have four or
     and theoretical questions, in practical part of the                                                                               five misconceptions. Briefly, it can be said that,
     test most of the students have five or six                                                                                        number of students having misconceptions on
                                                                 w                                                                                                                                      ~                             w

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         FIGURE 2: Frequencies of students' misconceptions in practical and theoretical questions
                                                 High School Students' Misconceptions About Simple Electric Circuits                                                                                                         117

practical part of the diagnostic test is more than                                                                 gender difference on misconception scores
the number of students having the same                                                                             obtained     from practical      questions  was
misconception in theoretical part of the test.                                                                     investigated. Table 2 indicated that with 74
Furthermore, there is no student having all of the                                                                 degrees of freedom, the t value of 0.414 was not
misconceptions at the same time and all students                                                                   significant at 0.05level (p= 0.680) which means
have at least one of the misconceptions.                                                                           that there is no significant difference between
   Table 1 gives us the misconception scores of                                                                    misconeeption scores of male and female
both girl and boy students in theoretical and                                                                      students in practical questions.
practical questions. Although it seems that girls                                                                      In asimilar     way, gender difference in
have more misconceptions than boys in the                                                                          misconception scores obtained from theoretical
practical questions while boys have more                                                                           questions was also investigated by using t-test
misconceptions      than girls in theoretical                                                                      for independent groups. The results are shown in
questions, actually means for both male and                                                                        Table 3. Table 3 indicated that with 74 degrees
female students misconception        scores are                                                                    of freedom, the t value of 0.228 was not
approximately the same.                                                                                            significant at 0.05 level (p= 0.820) which means
                                                                                                                   that there is no significant difference between
T ABLE 1: Descriptive statistics results for
                                                                                                                   misconception scores of male and female
gender difference in students' misconception in
                                                                                                                   students in theoretical test questions.
practical questions and in theoretical questions
                                       Group Slatiatlcs                                                                Students' experience     scores were also
                                                                       SIıI.              5*1. Error
                                                                                                                   examined with respeet to gender and as can be
         GENDER                        N            Me8ı             Devidon                MII8II
 PRA_MIS 1                                  26        5.21                 1.43                   .28
                                                                                                                   seen from Table 4 with 73.877 degrees of
         2                                  50        5.12                 1.52                    22              freedom, the t value of 0.102 was not significant
 TED_MIS 1                                  26        3.92                 1.38                   .27
         2                                  50        4.00                 1.40                   .20
                                                                                                                   at 0.05 level (p=O.919) which means that there is
                                                                                                                   no significant difference between experience
     3.2. Inferential                      Statistics
                                                                                                                   scores of male and female students.
     By using t-test for independent groups, firstly

TABLE 2: Results for gender difference in students' misconceptions in practical questions
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                                                                                                            '22        53 58$             61'                         15                35            -56                    86

TABLE          3: Results for gender difference in students' misconceptions in theoretical questions
                                                                  l........,i Testtor
                                                                                                                                                                                                     i,..,.,.. or tht
                                                                                                                                                                           sad Error                   Dı..."oe
                                                                                                                  dı                                   ~Me'"
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T AB LE 4: Results for gender difference on experience score
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    18                                                                             Se/en Sancar              - E/if Esra Yılmaz - Ali Eryılmaz
                                                                                                                                                                       [EdJ. 21

   As a result, independent t-test analyses show                                                                           results showed the significant main effects for
that there was no signifieant differenee between                                                                           gender. Males (mean=18.1) did better on the
practical misconception      scores, theoretical                                                                           post-test than did females           (mean= 13 .7).
misconception scores and experience scores in                                                                              Generally the other researchers have reached the
terms of gender.                                                                                                           same results (Kahle          and Meece,       1994;
   For the present study, bivariate correlational                                                                          Shipstone, 1988). All these studies show that the
analyses were used to find if there were                                                                                   female students' misconceptions are higher than
significant correlations among the variables.                                                                              the male students' misconceptions. Although
According     to Table     5, two correlation                                                                              significant difference between male and female
coefficients    were    found as statistically                                                                             students' misconceptions could not be found in
significant (practical misconception scores,                                                                               this study, results are still consistent with the
experience scores and practical misconception                                                                              literature. it is expected to find significant
scores, theoretical misconception scores). In                                                                              difference between male and female students'
other words, the students who have more                                                                                    misconception scores in simple electric circuits
experience have few misconceptions in practical                                                                            as a result of their different experiences. But,
questions    and the students        who have                                                                              since there is no significant           experience
misconceptions in practical questions have also                                                                            difference between male and female students in
misconceptions in theoretical questions.                                                                                   the study, it is not surprising to meet with such a
                                                                                                                            resulL In a more brief way, it can be proposed
TABLE 5: The correlations between the                                                                                       that, since there is no significant difference
students' experience scores in the practical                                                                               between males and females in terms of their
questions and in theoretical questions                                                                                      experience levels, there is also no significant
                                                                                                                            difference    between     their theoretical    and
                                                                   EXPR              PM         MIS    TEO    MIS
                  ~t:f(           pearson eorr......on                    1.000             -.269"           -.061          practical misconception scores. Another reason
                                  Sig. (2-tailed)                                             .014             .585
                                  N                                           83                83               83
                                                                                                                            can be the applying the diagnostic test in
               PRA_MIS            Pearson eorr.....Uon                    -.269"            1000               .421         Anatolian High School where the students are
                                  SIg. (2-tailed)                           .014                               .000
                                  N                                           83                  83             83         accepted to the school through entrance
     TEO_MIS                      Pearson CorTeIıı.on                     -.061                 .421         1.000
                                  SIg. (2-1ailed)                           .585                .000
                                                                                                                            examination and special class of the public
                                  N                                           83                  83                83      school where both gids' and boys' abilities are
                                                                          _      (2-_).
                 '. CorreIa.on         is sig-Oficanl at the 0.06
                 -        correıa.on    is si!1'ifiCant    at 1he 0.01
                                                                           _      (2-1ailed).
                                                                                                                            close to each other.
                                                                                                                              The theoretical       questions   cannot be
4. RESULTS                                        AND CONCLUSIONS                                                          compared since the same kinds of questions
   In this study the effects of gender and                                                                                 were not used before. After analysing the data, it
experience on students' misconceptions about                                                                               was found that there is no difference between
simple electric circuits were investigated. In                                                                             the male and female students' misconception
order to do this, initially, detailed literature                                                                           scores in theoretical questions.
review was made and eleven misconception                                                                                      Moreover, it can be easily seen from the
categories were stated. Then, diagnostic test                                                                              Figure     i     that    generally,    students'
induding 13 practical and 8 theoretical                                                                                    misconceptions in the practical questions are
q~~stions was developed. Af ter administering                                                                              higher than the theoretical ones except the sixth
this diagnostic test in anatolian and public high                                                                          and ninth misconceptions. The reason is clear;
schools to 76 students, the data were obtained                                                                             when looked at the question related to sixth and
and analysed.                                                                                                              ninth misconceptions, it was realised that those
      Results related to practical questions can be                                                                        questions are difficult to practice in daily life
    compared with the other studies; Chambers and                                                                           therefore their values are close to each other.
    Andre (1995) have studied on this area and their                                                                            In the light of the abave findings obtained by
                      High School Students' Misconceptions About Simple Electric Circuits                    119

statistical analyses, the following   conclusions                    on practical       questions   and   the ir
can be deduced;                                                      experience.
   1. There is no significant        difference                In addition to these, it was realised that,
      between male students' misconception                 students    have     considerable    degree     of
      scores obtained from practical questions             misconceptions about simple electric circuits.
      and female students' misconception                   Actually all the instructors should be aware of
      scores obtained from practical questions.            these misconceptions and try to remedy them
   2. There is no significant         difference           since existing memories and information
      between male students' misconception                 influence the selection of stimuli, the attention
      scores     obtained     from   theoretical           given to stimuli and subsequent meaning
      questions      and     female    students'           generated from stimuli. More briefly, existing
      misconception      scores obtained from              concepts play an important role in determining
      theoretical questions.                               leaming outcomes because they provide the
                                                           foundation for the construction         of new
   3. There is no significant      difference
                                                           information. Moreover, as a result of this study,
      between   male students'    experience
                                                           it can be concluded that although many students
      scores and female students' experience
                                                           can solve the theoretical questions, few are able
                                                           to solve practical ones requiring experience.
   4. There is a significant     relationship              Thus, necessity of laboratory activities should
      between students' misconception scores
                                                           also be taken into consideration.
An example from practical questions:                        An example from theoretical questions:
1. Şekilde görülen lamba yanar mı?                          1.   Şekilde görülen devredeki direnç üzerinden
            a. Evet, çünkü elektrik akımı pilin                           akım geçer mi?
       Ç) ucundan lambaya doğrudan                                         a. Evet çünkü elektrik akımı güç
            geçebilir .                                                    kaynağından   dirence doğrudan
                                                                           geçebilir .
             b. Evet, çünkü pil ile lamba
             arasındaki herhangi bir bağlantı                   G.         b. Evet çünkü güç kaynağı ile
             lambanın yanmasını sağlar.                                    direnç arasındaki herhangi bir
             c. Hayır, çünkü tel lambanın                                  bağlantı     dirençten  akımın
             yanlış noktasına bağlanmış.                                   geçmesini sağlar.

d. Hayır, çünkü sistemden akım geçmez.                      c.   Hayır çünkü tel dirence yanlış bağlanmış.
e. Hayır, çünkü elektrik akımı lambanın bağlı               d.   Hayır çünkü devreden akım geçmez.
olduğu uçtan değil diğerinden çıkar.                        e. Hayır çünkü elektrik akımı güç kaynağının
f               ................................            bağlı olduğu uçtan değil diğerinden çıkar.
                                                            f                                                .
Examples from experience scale:
1)Daha önce elektrik ile ilgili bir deney yaptınız                                             bir
                                                            2)Dahaöncehiç pil ve tel kullanarak lamba
mı?                                                         yakmayı denediniz mi?
   a. Hiç     b. Nadiren       c. Sık sık                       a. Hiç     b. Nadiren    c. Sık sık
3)Daha önce hiç elektrikli alet tamir etmeyi                4)Evinizde bozulan bir lambayı değiştirmeyi
denediniz mi?                                               denediniz mi?
   a. Hiç     b. Nadiren       c. Sık sık                       a. Hiç     b. Nadiren     c. Sık sık
120                                   Selen Sancar   - Elif   Esra Yılmaz   - Ali   Eryılmaz
                                                                                                                        [EdJ. 21

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