Investigating teachers' understanding and diagnosis of students' preconceptions in the secondary science classroom Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/c534fs07h

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  • A large amount of research has been conducted that establishes that students of all ages hold conceptions about a variety of science topics that are not in line with accepted scientific beliefs. These preconceptions have been identified in a variety of ways in research situations; this study focused on how secondary science teachers actually attempt to diagnose students' preconceptions in the classroom and the understanding the teachers have about these preconceptions. The use the teachers made of any information gathered in a diagnosis and the reasons for a lack of diagnosis were also investigated. Four experienced science teachers were studied in depth, they were interviewed three times and classroom observations were conducted for nine weeks. The teachers' classroom practices, questioning techniques, understanding of students' preconceptions, and assessment of students' understanding were all analyzed. In this study, the teachers did not use any formal strategies for diagnosing students' preconceptions such as concept mapping, interviews, journals, or writing prompts. The teachers studied claimed that it was important to conduct diagnosis but only one teacher was seen to actually do so. The teacher who did use class discussions as a strategy for diagnosis was the most experienced teacher of the four and also the teacher with the strongest subject matter background. The other three teachers all claimed that they did do diagnosis of preconceptions by questioning their students but they were not seen to do this in their classes. The conclusions from these results are that the teachers did not have a complete understanding of the concept of diagnosing students' preconceptions in order to use that information to attempt conceptual change. The teachers' beliefs were not consistent with their practices in this situation; they may have had certain constraints on them that inhibited the translation of their beliefs into practice. The implications are that preservice and inservice teachers may need to be trained about the importance of, the strategies involved with, and the justification for diagnosing students' preconceptions in the regular classroom environment. Teachers must have an understanding of students' preconceptions and the effect they have on students' learning.
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