Students come to science class with
alternative conceptions of the real world
that are highly resistant preconceptions
Alternative conceptions are:
– misapplied conceptions based upon an Aristotelian
– “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.
– 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
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
– discrepant events
Good Secondary Sources for
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 http://phys.udallas.edu/altconcp.html
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.
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.
Students learn best when they construct
new meaning for themselves by confronting
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 problems of personal relativism and
Science is a public discipline, not to
Justification of knowledge is a socio-
political process of consensus building.
Science knowledge is discovered, not
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
Recognize that alternate conceptions
Probe for students’ preconceptions
through demonstrations, questions, and
Ask students to clarify their statements.
Provide contradictions to students'
preconceptions through questions,
implications, and demonstrations.
Encourage discussion, urging students to
apply physical concepts in reasoning.
Foster the replacement of preconception
– thought experiments,
– 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
Operation Physics refers to