10th November, 2011
CONCEPTIONS AND CONCEPTUAL CHANGE
This session will illustrate the role of children’s conceptions, misconceptions and alternative frameworks in approaching science learning. It will illustrate some ideas on conceptual change in framing how science learning occurs.
This was a brain bender of a paper. I found it really tough to get through, the language was dense and I had trouble getting at the nuts and bolts of it. After the previous session I did find it a bit easier to understand and as in the previous paper I wasn’t critical about it (this is my mission for the next paper to be critical).
The paper was looking at two competing perspectives regarding knowledge structure coherence.
- Knowledge as theory (KaT): a coherent unified framework of theory-like character.
- Knowledge as elements (KaE): an ecology of quasi-independent elements
Those are the definitions of the two theories and that’s as simplified as it gets. In hindsight I should have looked at the references for the definitions to see if those original papers could help me decode the meaning. After discussion on the two elements we eventually represented the two theories digramatically:
KaE: different elements (units) of theory that can conflict with each other. Linked as an ecology (rhizomal knowledge). A experiential knowledge.
An example the paper uses at the end when it decides that both structures are usable depending on the subject is that KaT is good for Astronomy (where there is a major theory element) and KaW is good for mechanics (where students has personal experience of the subject).
Authors write for a purpose, they have biases. Even thought he paper is defined as ‘An Overview’ is it? Do the authors have an opinion? They divide the world into two camps and then decide which one is better. Certainly the abstract gives that impression.
Is a student’s knowledge most accurately represented as a coherent unified framework of theory-like character…
Also they give references for the descriptions of KaT and KaE but do the authors of those papers agree with this paper’s analysis?
How are you defining learning in the first place. Is it just what’s in the student’s heads because that is very hard to measure and easy to influence, we were shown the classic: hold up a piece of paper and answer quickly. What colour is this piece of paper? What do cows drink? Now most people answer Milk after saying white. Does that mean that’s what we think is true? When designing a study you have to be careful that you are measuring learning in an accurate way and your study isn’t going to throw up odd results that you think are common student misconceptions but are actually a fault in your methods.
So how do I define learning? How do I define knowledge? Whatever the answer is to those questions as long as you have thought about it and defined your parameters then you are correct. Your views maybe different to someone else’s, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. As long as you justify them with references and empirical data then you are doing fine.
This definition based on The Campaign for Learning definition is good:
Learning is a process of active engagement with experience. It is what people do when they want to make sense of the world. It may involve the development or deepening of skills, knowledge, understanding, values, ideas and feelings or an increase in the capacity to reflect. Effective learning leads to change, development and the desire to learn more.
Braund, Martin, and Michael Reiss. Learning Science outside the Classroom. New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004.
After reading the paper I aligned the two perspectives with the Positivest and Constructivist paradigms from the last session. With KaT being Positivist; a hierarchical, linear structure that build on itself and KaE as Constructivist a more holistic view where different concepts are acceptable and can co-exist even if they are contradictory.
We then discussed the differences between Piaget and Vygotsky theories of learning and how they fit in with the paper: Piaget (KaE, experiential) and Vygotsky (KaT, theory). There are times when both methodologies needs to be used as even though experiential learning allows students to discover the material for themselves there are some concepts e.g. the structure of the atom, the use of the normal in ray diagrams, the structure of proteins that require student to be told. They cannot gain that information from their own experience.
(An interesting sidebar story about the problems with getting teenage boys to read. In our culture, boys are brought of in a very Piaget environment (go out and discover) while girls are held closely and told things a la Vygotsky. So no wonder boys have trouble sitting down and reading a book.)
- You need to define your own model of learning and justify it
- I must critically analyse the next session’s paper
- Even though there are often conflicting polar opposite theories in education it seems that picking the right one for what you are teaching at the time is better than just sticking to one side
- Should student have a better knowledge of the theory of education? Maybe they would benefit if they understood how they learn/process knowledge to become better learners (learning to learn)
- Knowledge is not just what you know in your head, it is how you participate in the situation.