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Everything has its processes, one could say: a longitudinal study following students' ideas about transformations of matter from age 7 to 16
Kristianstad University, School of Education and Environment. Kristianstad University, Research environment Learning in Science and Mathematics (LISMA). (LISMA)
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis concerns students’ learning and meaning-making in science. The theoretical framework builds upon Human Constructivism. This perspective underlines the unique interplay that occurs between thinking, feeling, and acting in human meaning-making and also stresses the important role of language in learning processes.

The aim of the thesis is to learn more about how individual students develop their understanding of processes in which different kinds of transformations of matter occur. This aim is connected to the opinion that such knowledge can help in the development of teaching approaches leading to meaningful learning.

A ten year longitudinal study has been conducted in which 20 students’ conceptions of matter and its transformations have been followed from age 7 to 16. In interviews performed once or twice every year the students described and explained the transformations of matter in three situations: the future of fading leaves left lying on the ground, the disappearance of the wax of a burning candle, and the appearance of mist on the inside of the cover of a glass of water. As part of the study, an early (at the age of 7) introduction of the idea of the particulate nature of matter was made.

The study contributes to earlier studies on students’ ideas about transformations of matter by showing how students develop their ability to explain such processes in everyday situations. The study shows that students develop understanding of phenomena with a strong personal flavour. There is a spread in the students’ capability to use their experiences and the school science in productive ways to elaborate their ideas into more scientifically acceptable ones. This spread becomes greater during the compulsory school.

The study shows the young students’ competence to use a simple molecule concept in productive ways in their explanations of the situations but it also shows the older students’ difficulties in using the science taught in later school-years. A conclusion is that fundamental concepts, such as the particle model, could be introduced in early school-years but only if the concept is continuously worked on and elaborated.

Because of the longitudinal design the great impact of early experiences, both from family life and school, on students’ ideas is revealed. By following the individual students’ meaning-making over a ten year period and allowing them to comment on their own interview responses it becomes obvious that meaningful learning takes time.

Different kinds of longitudinal studies that can inform us further about students’ meaningful learning in relation to science curricula are asked for as a result of the findings of this study. Longitudinal studies that can reveal how students’ and/or teachers’ ideas about the purpose of schooling change over time are also asked for.

Abstract [sv]

Denna avhandling handlar om elevers lärande och meningsskapande i naturvetenskap. Det teoretiska ramverket bygger på Human Constructivism. Detta perspektiv framhåller det unika samspel som äger rum mellan tankar, känslor och handlingar då människor skapar mening. Perspektivet betonar också språkets viktiga roll i lärandeprocesser.

Avhandlingens syfte är att få mer kunskap om hur enskilda elever utvecklar förståelse av processer i vilka olika sorters materieomvandlingar sker. Sådan kunskap är värdefull vid utvecklandet av undervisningsansatser som kan leda till meningsfullt lärande.

En tioårig longitudinell studie har genomförts i vilken 20 elevers uppfattningar om materia och dess omvandlingar har följts från 7 till 16 år. I intervjuer genomförda en eller två gånger per år beskrev och förklarade eleverna materieomvandlingarna i tre situationer: vad händer med vissna löv som ligger kvar på marken, vart tar stearinet från ett brinnande ljus vägen och hur uppstår imman som syns på insidan av en glasskiva som lagts ovanpå ett glas med vatten. Som en del i studien introducerades redan vid 7 års ålder idén om materiens partikelnatur.

Denna studie bidrar, i förhållande till tidigare studier om elevers uppfattningar om materieomvandlingar, med att visa hur elever utvecklar sin förmåga att förklara sådana processer i vardagssituationer. Studien visar att elever utvecklar förståelse för fenomenen med en tydligt personlig prägel. Det finns en spridning i elevernas förmåga att använda sina erfarenheter och skolans naturvetenskap för att på ett fruktbart sätt utveckla sina idéer i mer vetenskaplig riktning. Denna spridning ökar under grundskoletiden.

Studien visar de unga elevernas förmåga att använda ett enkelt molekylbegrepp på ett produktivt sätt i sina förklaringar av situationerna men visar också de äldre elevernas svårigheter att använda naturvetenskapen som undervisas de senare skolåren. En slutsats är att viktiga begrepp som partikelmodellen skulle kunna introduceras tidigt i skolan men bara om begreppet kontinuerligt bearbetas och utvecklas.

De tidiga erfarenheternas betydelse för utvecklingen av elevernas idéer har tydliggjorts genom det longitudinella upplägget av studien. Genom att följa individuella elevers meningsskapande under en tioårsperiod och genom att låta dem kommentera de egna intervjuerna har det blivit synligt att meningsfullt lärande tar tid.

Olika typer av longitudinella studier som kan ge oss ytterligare kunskap om elevers meningsfulla lärande i förhållande till läro- och kursplaner efterfrågas som en följd av studiens resultat. Longitudinella studier som kan beskriva hur elever och/eller lärare förändrar sina uppfattningar om meningen med skolan över tid efterfrågas också.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. , 151 p.
Series
Malmö Studies in Educational Sciences, ISSN 1651-4513 ; 45
Keyword [en]
longitudinal study, primary education, secondary education, science learning, transformations of matter, the particulate nature of matter
National Category
Social Sciences Pedagogy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-5621ISBN: 978-91-977100-7-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hkr-5621DiVA: diva2:286827
Public defence
2009-03-27, Högskolan Kristianstad sal 7:318, Elmetorpsvägen 15, Kristianstad, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-01-15 Created: 2010-01-05 Last updated: 2014-07-28Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. A long-term study of students' explanations of transformations of matter
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A long-term study of students' explanations of transformations of matter
2004 (English)In: Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, ISSN 1492-6156, E-ISSN 1942-4051, Vol. 4, no 1, 77-96 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We report on a long-term study of young children's understanding of matter and its transformations. Interviews concerning children's conceptions could be seen in the idioms, personal framings of experiences, that became apparent as a result of the longitudinal design of the study. As part of the project, we also made an early (at the age of 6) introduction ot the concept, molecule. Depending on the phenomenon presented to them for explanation, some of the children used the molecule concept as a tool for understanding and explaining, while others did not. By focusing on a few examples, which we analyse in detail, we argue that long-term studies give rich detail and important information about children's learning that other kinds of study do not.

Keyword
longitudinal study, primary education, science learning, transformations of matter, the particulate nature of matter
National Category
Didactics Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-5714 (URN)
Available from: 2010-01-15 Created: 2010-01-15 Last updated: 2013-07-02Bibliographically approved
2. Following young students' understanding of three phenomena in which transformations of matter occur
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Following young students' understanding of three phenomena in which transformations of matter occur
2008 (English)In: International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, ISSN 1571-0068, E-ISSN 1573-1774, Vol. 6, no 3, 481-504 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In order to develop successful teaching approaches to transformations of matter, we need to know more about how young students develop an understanding of these processes. In this longitudinal study, we followed 25 students from 7 to 13 years of age in their reasoning about transformations of matter. The questions addressed included how the students_ understanding of transformations of matter changed and how we can make sense of individual learning pathways. In interviews performed once or twice every year the students described and explained three situations: fading leaves left on the ground, a burning candle, and a glass of water covered with a glass plate on which some mist had formed. When analysing the interviews, we found a common pathway of how the students_ ideas changed over the years in each one of the situations. When analysing individual student_s interviews with Ausubel_s assimilation theory we could discern subordinate, superordinate and combinatorial learning. How these findings can contribute to an improvement of teaching about transformations of matter is discussed.

Keyword
Longitudinal study, primary education, science learning, transformations of matter
National Category
Pedagogy Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-74 (URN)10.1007/s10763-006-9064-5 (DOI)
Available from: 2009-01-12 Created: 2009-01-12 Last updated: 2014-07-28Bibliographically approved
3. A longitudinal study showing how students use a molecule concept when explaining everyday situations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A longitudinal study showing how students use a molecule concept when explaining everyday situations
2009 (English)In: International Journal of Science Education, ISSN 0950-0693, E-ISSN 1464-5289, Vol. 31, no 12, 1631-1655 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper we present results from a 10-year (1997-2006) longitudinal study in which we, by interviews once or twice every year, followed how students, throughout the compulsory school, developed their understanding of three situations in which transformations of matter occur. We believe that students have to meet scientific ideas early in order to gradually, in social cooperation with classmates, friends, teachers, and other grown-ups, elaborate the meaning of a concept. We followed 23 students all born in 1990. In 1997 we introduced the idea of the particulate nature of matter. We have conducted interviews allowing students to explain the transformation of matter in fading leaves left lying on the ground, burning candles, and a glass of water with a lid on. In the interview at 16 years of age, less than one-fifth of the students use molecular ideas in scientifically acceptable ways. The overall conclusion is that most students do not connect the knowledge they gain in school about the particulate nature of matter to these everyday situations. On the other hand, the students seem capable of using a simple particle model and the model can help them understand the invisible gas state. The question of how to use this capability in order to develop students' scientific ideas is still not solved and more research is argued for.

Keyword
Longitudinal study, students, molecule concept, everyday situations
National Category
Pedagogy Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-75 (URN)10.1080/09500690802154850 (DOI)000268611400003 ()
Available from: 2009-01-12 Created: 2009-01-12 Last updated: 2014-07-28Bibliographically approved
4. Following how students from age 7 to 16 use their experiences when developing their ideas about transformations of matter
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Following how students from age 7 to 16 use their experiences when developing their ideas about transformations of matter
2008 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper we present results from a 10 year longitudinal study with the aim to investigate how students use experiences when they develop their ideas about decomposition, burning, evaporation, and condensation. The theoretical framework of this study builds upon social constructivist perspectives. In our study (1997-2006) we have followed 23 students all born in 1990. We have conducted interviews allowing the students to explain the transformation of matter in fading leaves left lying on the ground, burning candles, and a glass of water with a lid on. Most students make progress in describing and explaining the situations in the first years of the study. Then there is a vast spread in the students’ capability to use their experiences and science taught in school in productive ways to improve their understanding of transformations of matter. We discuss the implications for science education research, compulsory school science curricula, and school science education out of these findings.

Keyword
longitudinal study, primary education, secondary education, science learning, transformations of matter, the particulate nature of matter
National Category
Didactics Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hkr:diva-5725 (URN)
Conference
9th Nordic Research Symposium on Science Educatio, June 11-14, 2008, Reykjavik, Iceland
Available from: 2010-01-15 Created: 2010-01-15 Last updated: 2014-07-28Bibliographically approved

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