A comparative cross-cultural study of the prevalence and nature of misconceptions in physics amongst English and Chinese undergraduate students

Abrahams, Ian, Homer, Matt, Sharpe, Rachael and Zhou, Mengyuan (2015) A comparative cross-cultural study of the prevalence and nature of misconceptions in physics amongst English and Chinese undergraduate students. Research in Science & Technological Education, 33 (1). pp. 111-130. ISSN 0263-5143

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Background: Despite the large body of literature regarding student misconceptions,
there has been relatively little cross-cultural research to directly compare
the prevalence of common scientific misconceptions amongst students from different
cultural backgrounds. Whilst previous research does suggest the international
nature of many misconceptions, there is little evidence as to whether the
prevalence of such common misconceptions varies from culture to culture.
Purpose: To undertake a preliminary examination of the prevalence and reasons
for some previously studied scientific misconceptions amongst English and Chinese
undergraduate students so as to ascertain whether there is any evidence of
cultural difference. Such a finding could help to identify teaching approaches in
either country that are more effective in reducing the prevalence of common student
Sample: The study involved a convenience sample of 40 undergraduate students
– 20 English and 20 Chinese drawn equally from two universities in the North of
England – whose formal science education ended at ages 16 and 15 respectively.
Design and methods: The study employed semi-structured interview schedule
containing eight questions.
Results: Whilst similar misconceptions existed amongst both English and Chinese
undergraduates, their prevalence was significantly higher amongst the English
students (Overall mean score for scientifically correct answers amongst
Chinese students was 27.7% higher, p < .01, r = .64). Often when English and
Chinese undergraduates had similar misconceptions, they tended to explain these
by drawing upon very similar erroneous analogies and these appear to be only
nominally culturally independent in that they are based on globally shared everyday
Conclusion: Differences in the prevalence of misconceptions amongst English
and Chinese undergraduates appear to arise from differences in the way in which
specific areas of physics are taught in both countries. It might be possible to
reduce the prevalence of misconceptions in both countries if a better understanding
could be developed of how, and why, undergraduates use certain erroneous
analogies, and why some teaching approaches seem more effective in reducing
the prevalence of misconceptions than others.

Keywords:misconceptions, undergraduates, cross-cultural, physics, bmjgoldcheck, NotOAChecked
Subjects:X Education > X300 Academic studies in Education
X Education > X100 Training Teachers
X Education > X330 Academic studies in Secondary Education
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
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ID Code:16756
Deposited On:18 Feb 2015 16:53

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