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ERIC Number: EJ1176386
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018
Pages: 23
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-2469-9896
Students' Flexible Use of Ontologies and the Value of Tentative Reasoning: Examples of Conceptual Understanding in Three Canonical Topics of Quantum Mechanics
Hoehn, Jessica R.; Finkelstein, Noah D.
Physical Review Physics Education Research, v14 n1 p010122-1-010122-23 Jan-Jun 2018
As part of a research study on student reasoning in quantum mechanics, we examine students' use of ontologies, or the way students' categorically organize entities they are reasoning about. In analyzing three episodes of focus group discussions with modern physics students, we present evidence of the dynamic nature of ontologies, and refine prior theoretical frameworks for thinking about dynamic ontologies. We find that in a given reasoning episode ontologies can be dynamic in "construction" (referring to when the reasoner constructs the ontologies) or "application" (referring to which ontologies are applied in a given reasoning episode). In our data, we see instances of students flexibly switching back and forth between parallel stable structures as well as constructing and negotiating new ontologies in the moment. Methodologically, we use a collective conceptual blending framework as an analytic tool for capturing student reasoning in groups. In this research, we value the messiness of student reasoning and argue that reasoning in a tentative manner can be productive for students learning quantum mechanics. As such, we shift away from a binary view of student learning which sees students as either having the correct answer or not.
American Physical Society. One Physics Ellipse 4th Floor, College Park, MD 20740-3844. Tel: 301-209-3200; Fax: 301-209-0865; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Colorado (Boulder)
Grant or Contract Numbers: 1322734; 1548924; 1625824