Students’ ideas in novel situations: misconceptions or fragmented pieces of knowledge?

Fotou, Nikolaos and Abrahams, Ian (2016) Students’ ideas in novel situations: misconceptions or fragmented pieces of knowledge? In: New Perspectives in Science Education, 16-17 March 2016, Florence, Italy.

Students’ Ideas in Novel Situations: Misconceptions or Fragmented Pieces of Knowledge?
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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Since the mid-1970s a large body of research in science education has focused on identifying
students’ ideas and difficulties in understanding science across a wide student age range. Whilst this
research has informed the design of instructional approaches and curriculum development, it has
contributed little to our understanding of how students reason when presented with a novel situation
and the knowledge they draw upon to understand that situation. Currently there are two main
perspectives on the nature of students’ knowledge: that of misconceptions and that of knowledge in
pieces (p-prims). From the former perspective students’ knowledge is perceived as being theory-like
and stable with students’ ideas being context-independent whereas the latter perspective sees
students’ knowledge as composed of smaller, loosely organized, elements with their activation and
subsequent arrangement into ‘strings’ being dependent upon the context of the situation students are
trying to understand.

In this cross-age study, conducted in Greece, students (n=166) aged 10 to 17 years were asked to
make predictions about novel situations and then explain how they arrived at those predictions. We
report here on a number of ideas identified in students’ explanations by considering how they can be
seen either as misconceptions or, alternatively, as situated acts of construction involving the activation
and arrangement of smaller p-prims. Although our purpose was not to judge the merits of one
perspective over the other, we were better able to understand and interpret the ideas identified in
students’ explanations in terms of p-prims already documented in the literature. Our results showed
that students’ ideas were not theoretically grounded but rather appeared to be composed of
independent ‘pieces of knowledge’ strung together in response to the contextual features of the novel
situation they were presented with. Further research is now needed to better understand the nature of
students’ knowledge and reasoning and how these could be directly linked to teaching approaches.

Keywords:novel situations, p-prims, fragmented pieces of knowledge, misconceptions, Reasoning, Analogies
Subjects:X Education > X320 Academic studies in Primary Education
X Education > X120 Training Teachers - Primary
X Education > X130 Training Teachers - Secondary
X Education > X330 Academic studies in Secondary Education
X Education > X900 Others in Education
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
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ID Code:23408
Deposited On:06 Jul 2016 19:35

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