Abstracts for ConChaMo 2

On Categorization of Scientific Terms

Strömdahl, Helge
Linköping University, Sweden

It is important in science learning to be observant on category membership of scientific terms. It is not unusual that category membership is mixed up in educational settings and popular science jargon inducing conceptual confusion. A typical example is the statement “matter can be converted into energy”. However, matter is belonging to the category of phenomenal objects and energy is belonging to the category of physical quantities, a theoretical concept category. What is said is that an object can be turned into a theoretical concept, a physical quantity, a measurable property, which is nonsense. What could be said is “that mass can be converted into energy (E0 = mc2) or matter can be converted into electromagnetic radiation. Here the related terms are of the same category membership. This kind of category issues will be explicated in my presentation.

Conceptual Change in Physical Science, Theory of Mind and Personal Epistemology: Implications for Science Instruction

Kyriakopoulou, Natassa & Vosniadou, Stella
Department of Philosophy and History of Science, National Kapodistrian University of Athens

We argue that there are similar underlying cognitive components amongst children’s ability to think about the mental world (Theory of Mind), their epistemic beliefs about the nature of knowledge and the process of knowing (Personal Epistemology) and their ability to reason about mental models of the physical world (Conceptual change). Two exploratory studies were conducted to test this hypothesis. The first study investigated the relationships between the constructs of theory of mind, personal epistemology and conceptual change in physical science. Forty-six fifth graders were administered measures of theory of mind ability, epistemic stance, and reasoning in observational astronomy. The results showed that children's ability to reflect on alternative models of physical phenomena was significantly correlated with their theory of mind ability and their epistemic beliefs. Regression analysis showed that children’s theory of mind and epistemic beliefs were strong predictors for the ability to reason on different interpretations of the physical world. Taking into account the proposed theoretical relation between the three constructs, in Study 2 we compared the effectiveness of two instructional approaches in the understanding of astronomy concepts. Half of the students who participated in Study 1 received instruction that focused on the understanding of the uncertain and constructive nature of knowledge, while the remaining students received standard textbook-based instruction only for observational astronomy. The results showed positive effects for the experimental group compared to the control. The discussion will focus on the importance of building epistemological sophistication together with content knowledge as a means of promoting conceptual understanding in science.

Time as an example of the dialectic relationship between concepts and artefacts

Bernhard, Jonte
Engineering education research group, ITN, Linköping University, Campus Norrköping, Norrköping, Sweden

“We find metaphysics in machines, and machines in metaphysics” is the last sentence in Peter Galison's (2003) book “Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps – Empires of Time”. Expressing a similar position Niels Bohr (1958) pointed to “the impossibility in physical experience to distinguish between phenomena themselves and their conscious perception”. Furthermore he argues, “tools of observation play [a role] in defining … physical concepts”. In his historical epistemology Marx Wartofsky (1979) argues, “that … modes of perception … are historically variant … related to historical changes in … modes of human action (or praxis)”, meaning when perceptual artefacts evolve human perception also evolves. Although physics has abandoned Newton's absolute theological time his essentialist view of time and other concepts is still present. Consequently most textbooks have an essentialist view of concepts and seldom discuss the problematic nature of the concept of concepts (sic!). The dialectic relationship between concepts and artefacts and how concepts have altered their meaning due to the evolution of artefacts and discourse will be discussed in this paper. I argue this has implications for our view on concepts and conceptual change. The discussion of conceptual change often misses that the concepts themselves change. The concept of time and its evolution over time is chosen as the main illustration of my point of view. I argue that the meaning of a concept is its use in discourse. The production of knowledge in science and engineering in modern society is technologically embodied in (physical) artefacts. Hence discourse cannot be as language only; materiality cannot be neglected and we need to investigate discourse as a material- discursive-practice (e.g. Barad, 2007). It is well known that scientific concepts are not empirical unless they point to the possibility of factual observations and factual observations are only possible given a conceptual background. Without watches the concept of time has no empirical meaning and would accordingly be meaningless! Thus the initial sentence above could be re-stated as “we find concepts in artefacts, and artefacts in concepts”.

Coherence and Contextualization in the Process of Conceptual Change

Halldén, Ola & Larsson, Åsa
Stockholm University, Sweden

In the late 1970th Driver and Easley (1978) requested more focus on understanding the students’ ideas and reasoning in its own right rather than focusing on their ‘misconceptions’ or incorrect ideas. Their main point was that when students’ give wrong answers to questions at school these should not always be regarded as misconceptions but as answers from a different point of view, that is, out of an alternative framework. However, within the research field a normative line of research has been dominating. This normative line has focused on how the students’ alternative frameworks differ from scientific thinking and are obstacles in the acquisition of science concepts and there has been a search for the crucial event that should make conceptual change to come about in the learner. Another line of research has attempted to describe the students’ conceptions in its own right as requested by Driver and Easley. It has been argued that it is of importance to take the applicability of concepts into account as well as the framing of conceptual structures in cultural genres (e.g. Halldén, 1999). For example, how the conventions of drawings influence students’ thinking has been investigated (e.g. Ehrlén, 2008). In our presentation we will further explore the complexity of the process of conceptual change. This complexity involves quite different dimensions. First, there is the process of tentative reorganizations within a conceptual structure that have to conform to a new Gestalt in order for conceptual change to occur. These reorganizations involve ideas of quite complexity ranging from knowledge of simple facts to highly theorized concepts and logical relations that have to cohere simultaneously. Second, the student has to find this new Gestalt applicable to adequate explanatory contexts. This also implies that the process of conceptual change is three-tailed. It comprises a conflict among three entities, that is, two or more different facts or conceptions that conflict when related to specific contexts of applicability.

Conceptual change as a theoretical framework for explaining students’ difficulties in the tutorial of two source interference

Kesonen, Mikko, Asikainen Mervi A & Hirvonen, Pekka E
Department of Physics and Mathematics, University of Eastern Finland

Tutorial in Introductory Physics (tutorials) is a research-based instructional material that has been effective in improving students’ understanding of physics. In this study, we implemented the tutorial of Two Source Interference in a lecture hall setting. Its impact on students’ learning was examined with paper-and-pencil test questions which were asked before and after tutorial tasks. We also analysed students’ responses to the tutorial tasks that were done between the test questions. In 2011, fifty-nine students participated in the tutorial after lecture-based instruction in a course of Basic Physics IV at the University of Eastern Finland.

One major problem the students possessed was the difficulty to recognize the concepts of path length and path length difference: 29 % of the students expressed it before and 19 % after the tutorial tasks. Most of the students who could not overcome the difficulty were still able to provide desired answers in the tutorial tasks. The difficulty appears to maintain due to the different representations in the test questions and the tutorial tasks.

The permanence of this difficulty can be explained by applying the theory of conceptual change (Strike & Posner 1992). Since the tutorial tasks addressed only wavefront diagrams, the procedures involved in them became more intelligible and plausible to the students than the ones needed in analysing the interference patterns included in the test questions. Consequently, the students applied the procedures meant for the wavefront diagrams to the interference patterns, which appeared to uphold the difficulty. This result indicates that the conceptual change occurs contextually emphasizing the importance of the different representations in a physics instruction.

When the Models of Conceptual Change Explain

Rusanen, Anna-Mari
Department of Philosophy and Department of Physics, University of Helsinki

There is an enormous amount of studies of students’ ability to learn scientific content. The studies consistently show that a crucial aspect of learning many elementary topics in science involves conceptual change, i.e. the process of radically altering the learner’s prior conceptions in addition to adding new knowledge to what is already there. However, even within the devoted literature on conceptual change, there is no agreement on how to explain conceptual change.

In recent philosophical literature, many philosophers of science have proposed that explanation of the behavior and capacities of complex systems involve specific models of particular mechanisms. According to this mechanistic account of explanation to explain a phenomenon is to give an account of how a causal mechanism, a hierarchical system composed of component parts and their properties, sustains or produces the phenomenon. According to this account, genuinely explanatory models are models, in which the phenomenon is explained by giving an accurate and sufficient description of how a causal mechanism, a hierarchical system composed of component parts and their properties sustains or produces the phenomenon (Bechtel and Richardson, 1993; Machamer at al, 2000; Craver, 2007). In addition, genuine explanations offer the ability to say not merely how the system in fact behaves, but to say how it would behave under a variety of circumstances or interventions (Craver 2007, Woodward 2003).

In this presentation I focus on the question, whether the current accounts of conceptual change are able to provide genuinely explanatory models of conceptual change. In this presentation I argue that even if there are plenty of suggestions for the mechanisms of conceptual change in literature on conceptual change, often these purported “mechanisms” are not sufficiently specified and for that reason they typically fail to satisfy the requirements for genuine mechanism descriptions. Often the descriptions of mechanisms conceptual change are incomplete models of mechanisms, and include more or less filler terms. Filler terms describe only the relation between the input and the output of the process, but they offer little specific information of how the change was brought about. For this reason, these models offer rather “mechanism sketches” than genuine explanations (Craver, 2006, 2007).

Poster Presentations

Learning about Nature of Science as a Component of Liberal Education, and Some Implications for Pedagogy

Galamba, Arthur
University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

This paper assesses the general claim that history, philosophy, and sociology of science foster a critical and independent citizen. Whereas it acknowledges that studying these disciplines offers a better understand of the nature of science, thus contributing to the ideal of a liberal education, it is sceptical about their ability to foster skills, which might be used in different contexts. Aspects of constructivism and inquiry are briefly reviewed as they also intend to contribute to the aims of a liberal education. It is argued that constructivism has faced challenges for its philosophical commitments, whereas the need for ‘closure’ in natural sciences has posed a problem for inquiry settings. It therefore suggested that the best teaching practice is to engage students in the hermeneutical and argumentative practice of history, philosophy, and sociology, as they can avoid both empiricist commitments the authoritarian aspect of the natural sciences.

The Multiple Roles of History and Philosophy of Science in Science Teaching

Gebrekidan M. Tesfamariam
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Department of Chemistry
Trondheim, Norway

A number of authors have reported that students’ interest toward science has been declining and incorporating HPS in the teaching of science can enhance students’ interest towards science. In addition to this, HPS has a number of roles to play in science teaching. Due to these multiple roles many organizations and authors have recommended the inclusion of HPS in science teaching. The practical implementation of HPS in school science teaching, however, remains low due to a number of reasons including lack of effective and suitable teaching-learning materials; science teachers’ unfavourable attitude toward HPS; lack of appropriate knowledge of HPS and absence of pedagogic skills on how to teach history and philosophy of science. Continuous actions are needed on several levels in order to improve the problem of implementation during the course of time. The actions may include, but not limited to, improving science curricular materials including textbooks in such a way that they include appropriate HPS content, improving science teacher education programs with emphasis on HPS and providing continuous support to science teachers so that they can develop positive attitude toward the multiple roles of HPS, improve their knowledge of HPS and enhance their pedagogical skills on how to effectively integrate HPS in science teaching.

Teaching Climate Change: a history of science approach

de Wit, Rosmarie
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Department of Chemistry
Trondheim, Norway

As climate change is an important topic nowadays and many misconceptions remain it is argued that climate change should be part of the school curriculum. In this proposal it will be argued that an approach from the point of the history and philosophy of science could be beneficial.

A historical overview of the discovery of climate change is given, starting from the idea that the Earth is warmer than it would be without an atmosphere in the first part of the 19th century, through the finding that certain gases are strong heat absorbers to the first estimates of how much the Earth would warm for a doubling of the CO2 levels in late 19th century. In the early 20th century however, people came with objections and it was thought the greenhouse effect was at a maximum already. Then, in 1938, it was claimed that the greenhouse effect was observed. In later years a lot of discussion and research led to refined theories and a better understanding of the climate system. Cooling due to aerosols and additional heating due to different greenhouse gases are some examples. The description ends with the current understanding of the climate system. Furthermore, some ideas of how to incorporate the history of the discovery of climate change in teaching are given in the text.

Comparing different teaching approaches about Maxwell’s displacement current

Karam, Ricardo
University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Maxwell’s insertion of the displacement current term in Ampere’s law is one of the greatest achievements of the human mind. It was a crucial step for the prediction of electromagnetic waves that led to the unification of electromagnetism and optics. From an epistemological point of view, it also represents an innovation in physics’ methods, since the term is deduced within a pure theoretical reasoning instead of being the mathematical representation of empirically observable phenomena. Due to its relevance, the teaching of the displacement current is one of the most important topics of any course on electromagnetism. However, there are many possibilities to justify the need for this term, which emphasize different aspects and encompass different views of the nature of science. In order to investigate these differences more deeply, we have analyzed four physics lectures on the displacement current term, which were given by four different lecturers in undergraduate introductory level courses. Both the analysis of these lectures and the historical/philosophical literature on this issue led us to the establishment of criteria for comparing the lectures, such as: Stating the inconsistency between Ampère’s law and the continuity equation; Referring to the Symmetry of the field equations; Mentioning the charging capacitor problem; Discussions about the theory-experiment relation; Reference to Maxwell’s reasoning or historical remarks. In this work, we present a synthetic analysis of four lectures according to these criteria. Our aim is to provide enough arguments to foment the debate about the quality of these lectures according to different aspects and learning goals.

Teachers’ Views of Nature of Science and the Teaching of Nature of Science in Grades 4-9

Leden, Lotta, Lena Hansson, Lena & Redfors, Andreas
Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden

The inclusion of “nature of science” (or NOS) in science education, has for a long time been regarded as a crucial component in the teaching for scientific literacy. Research has shown that teachers in general do not possess adequate NOS-understanding and are therefore not able to perform adequate NOS-teaching in the science classroom. The aim of this study is to investigate in-service science teachers’ and their students’ views of NOS, both initially and continuously during a three year focus-group project. The study also aims to explore the planned and performed classroom NOS-instruction over the three-year period at different levels in the educational system. Participants in the study will be teachers in grades 4-9 and their students. The teachers will take part in focus-groups guided by a researcher and discuss aspects of NOS and their connections to the national curriculum and NOS-teaching. A list of NOS-tenets, worked out by Lederman (2007), will be used as a basis for the focus-group discussions. Questionnaires, interviews, digitally recorded class- and focus-group sessions, together with reflective journals will be the sources of data in this study. The research project is expected to contribute to the knowledge about how the teaching of NOS is performed at different levels in the educational system. The results are expected to contribute to the development of teaching of NOS. The results can also be used in teacher-education programs and in teachers’ professional development, which in turn may lead to increased possibilities for students to meet all national standards in the Swedish syllabuses.

Teaching Science through Inquiry – a Professional Development Model

Lundh, Ingrid, Redfors, Andreas & Rosberg, Maria
Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden

There is a need to change the teaching methods of the science subjects. Several international surveys, TIMMS and PISA, have been showing relatively declining skills for the Swedish students in the science subjects. Teachers seem to focus on complying with demands from national test and further demands of written documentation, instead of developing successful teaching. International science education research has found success factors for teaching and learning. But the research stays within the research communities and does not reach the teachers and their teaching. The gap between research results and teachers practices in the classroom is the basis of this investigation. Research shows that the teacher is one of the most important factors for student learning, therefore, this study will put great emphasis on the teachers’ competencies, i.e. their Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK). The focus of this investigation is teachers’ knowledge of the Nature of Science (NOS), the Nature of Science Inquiry (NOSI) and the teaching of NOS and NOSI. The project follows longitudinally groups of teachers as they take part in research-based implementation process of predesigned inquiry-teaching sequences in Physics. The context is a secondary school in Sweden (grades 8-9, age 14- 16 years). The project is set around group discussions between the involved teachers and the researcher on planning, implementing and analyzing actual teaching. The project aims to describe the development of the involved teachers PCK. The results of the project will provide indications on how future in-service teacher development courses in Science can be designed.