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					Alternative Conceptions,
    Concept Change,
  and Constructivism
      Alternative Conceptions
 Students  come to science class with
  alternative conceptions of the real world
  that are highly resistant preconceptions
   – misconceptions
 Alternative conceptions are:
   – misapplied conceptions based upon an Aristotelian
     world view.
   – “naive” attempts to explain the natural world.
   – highly resistant to change.
 Can   you think of any? (“Fish is Fish”)
    Examples from Mechanics
 Under  the influence of constant force,
  objects move with constant velocity.
 The velocity of an object is proportional
  to the magnitude of the applied force.
 In the absence of a force, objects are
  either at rest or, if moving, are slowing
 Heavier objects fall faster.
 If an object is at rest, it cannot be
   Research-based Claim 1

Learners come to formal science
instruction with a diverse set of
alternative conceptions concerning
natural objects and events.
– Physics
– Chemistry
– Biology
– Earth Science
    Research-based Claim 2

The alternative conceptions that
learners bring to formal science
instruction cut across age, ability,
gender, and cultural boundaries.
   Research-based Claim 3

Alternative conceptions are tenacious
and resistant to extinction by
conventional teaching strategies.
   Research-based Claim 4

Alternative conceptions often parallel
explanations of natural phenomena
offered by previous generations of
scientists and philosophers
   Research-based Claim 5

Alternative conceptions have their
origins in a diverse set of personal
experiences including direct
observation and perception, peer
culture, and language, as well as in
teachers’ explanations and
instructional materials.
   Research-based Claim 6

Teachers often subscribe to the same
alternative conceptions as their
    Research-based Claim 7

Learners’ prior knowledge interacts
with knowledge presented in formal
instruction, resulting in a diverse of
unintended learning outcomes.
 – the alcoholic and the prohibitionist
 – the boy who called wolf
   Research-based Claim 8

Instructional approaches that
facilitate conceptual change can be
effective classroom tools
– cooperative learning
– inquiry
– discovery
– discrepant events
  Good Secondary Sources for
    Information Concerning
  Alternative Conceptions are:
 Handbook     for Research on Science
  Teaching and Learning
 Operation Physics Handbook
 Physics begins with an M
 Physics begins with another M
 C 3P
             Broadly Defined

A method of teaching that accepts the
 idea that knowledge is not “learned;”
 rather, it is constructed.
  – students are neither tabla rasa to be “written upon”
    nor empty containers to be filled
  – learning is a process of the student, not the teacher
A method of teaching that sees the
 students as actors rather than spectators.
       Why Constructivism?

 Expository   approaches might work in the
  classroom setting, but resistance is
  evident ex post facto in out-of-class
 Constructivism rejects the notion that
  one can simply pass on information to
  learners, expect that a understanding
  will result, and that a lasting impression
  will be made.
               The Good

 Students  learn best when they construct
  new meaning for themselves by confronting
  their preconceptions.
 Lasting impressions can be made and actual
  learning can take place.
 Students can come to know how science
  works by observing first hand and
  participating directly in the scientific
 Constructivism is consistent with discovery,
  inquiry, and cooperative learning.
               The Bad

 The  problems of personal relativism and
 Science is a public discipline, not to
  private reality.
 Justification of knowledge is a socio-
  political process of consensus building.
 Science knowledge is discovered, not
            Concept Change

 Concept change occurs when alternative
  conceptions are directly addressed - not
  merely papered over.
 Only by directly confronting alternative
  conceptions can physics teachers hope to
  make any lasting change in conceptual
  understanding of students.
    Dealing with Preconceptions

 Elicit
 Confront
 Resolve
       Elicit Preconceptions

 Recognize   that alternate conceptions
 Probe for students’ preconceptions
  through demonstrations, questions, and
  white boarding.
 Ask students to clarify their statements.
    Confront Preconceptions

 Provide contradictions to students'
  preconceptions through questions,
  implications, and demonstrations.
 Encourage discussion, urging students to
  apply physical concepts in reasoning.
       Resolve Misconceptions

 Foster   the replacement of preconception
  –   questions,
  –   thought experiments,
  –   demonstrations,
  –   hypothetical situations,
  –   experiments designed to test hypotheses.
 Reevaluatestudents' understanding by
 posing conceptual questions.

 Look  into the book “Children’s Ideas in
  Science.” Evidently it contains a list of
  alternative conceptions.
 Operation Physics refers to
  preconceptions repeatedly.

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