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ERIC Number: EJ872152
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Mar
Pages: 33
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0926-7220
Calculating and Understanding: Formal Models and Causal Explanations in Science, Common Reasoning and Physics Teaching
Besson, Ugo
Science & Education, v19 n3 p225-257 Mar 2010
This paper presents an analysis of the different types of reasoning and physical explanation used in science, common thought, and physics teaching. It then reflects on the learning difficulties connected with these various approaches, and suggests some possible didactic strategies. Although causal reasoning occurs very frequently in common thought and daily life, it has long been the subject of debate and criticism among philosophers and scientists. In this paper, I begin by providing a description of some general tendencies of common reasoning that have been identified by didactic research. Thereafter, I briefly discuss the role of causality in science, as well as some different types of explanation employed in the field of physics. I then present some results of a study examining the causal reasoning used by students in solid and fluid mechanics. The differences found between the types of reasoning typical of common thought and those usually proposed during instruction can create learning difficulties and impede student motivation. Many students do not seem satisfied by the mere application of formal laws and functional relations. Instead, they express the need for a causal explanation, a mechanism that allows them to understand how a state of affairs has come about. I discuss few didactic strategies aimed at overcoming these problems, and describe, in general terms, two examples of mechanics teaching sequences which were developed and tested in different contexts. The paper ends with a reflection on the possible role to be played in physics learning by intuitive and imaginative thought, and the use of simple explanatory models based on physical analogies and causal mechanisms.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A