ERIC Number: ED344744
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
The Development of Understanding in Elementary Thermodynamics.
Lewis, Eileen Lob
This study investigates how students participating in the same curriculum construct understanding in elementary thermodynamics during a semester-long eighth-grade physical science class. Two questions were addressed: (1) How does the learners' understanding change during the study of elementary thermodynamics? and (2) What role do students' intuitive conceptions play in the restructuring and reorganization of their knowledge? Within each, middle school students' (n=180) knowledge restructuring was considered on an individual basis with generalizations made to larger student groups. All students responded to a two part pretest and posttest and 33 participated in all 5 clinical interviews. Three types of students were identified. "Converging" student were quick to recognize that heat flow is a model for thermodynamics. They use this powerful model and continue to add new information to their existing knowledge, finding that new knowledge is consistent with and reinforces the way they think about thermodynamics phenomena. "Progressing" students combine new information at the level of local knowledge, but do not integrate the pieces of that knowledge to build a more robust and cohesive view of thermodynamics. These students are progressing towards the coherent understanding of the students in the previous category. A third group of students can best be described as having an "oscillating" perspective of thermodynamics. These students combine experiences sporadically, change their views without additional evidence, and finish the course with a group of isolated ideas. Unlike the students with a progressing view of thermodynamics, these students do not gain more predictive ideas as time goes on, but simply move from one set of ideas to another. These findings contribute to understanding both the nature of the learner and the nature of the learning process and suggest ways to design science curricula to facilitate robust student understanding. (Author)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Science Foundation, Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Middle School Science
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago, IL, April 3-7, 1991).