Children's Ideas in Science

Children's Ideas in Science

Children's Ideas in Science

Children's Ideas in Science


Children arrive in their science classrooms with their own ideas and interpretations of the phenomena they are to study even when they have received no systematic instruction in these subjects whatsoever. These ideas and interpretations are a natural result of everyday experience - of practical physical activities, of talking with other people, and of the media.

This book documents and explores the ideas of school students (aged 10-16) about a range of natural phenomena such as light, heat, force and motion, the structure of matter and electricity. It also examines how students' conceptions change and develop with teaching.

The editors have brought together science educators who come from different parts of the work but whose work is focused on the same determination to bring insight into the conceptual world of children in science classrooms - insight which will be helpful in making science teaching and learning more rewarding for teachers and children alike.


This book concerns secondary school children's ideas about a range of natural phenomena and how these ideas change and develop with teaching. It has been written in such a way as to give an overview of children's conceptions to teachers and others concerned with science education in the middle and secondary school years; it is not intended to be an academic review.

Our plan has been to present findings which will be helpful in enabling the teaching of science to be better adapted to children's understandings. The idea of writing the book was born in Paris in 1978 when the three of us first met to exchange ideas and information about the studies we had been undertaking over the previous few years on children's conceptions in science.

Since that first meeting there has been a rapid growth of research into students' conceptions worldwide. Articles documenting students' ideas and their development and modification during teaching have been appearing in science education journals in North America, Europe, Australasia and elsewhere. A number of international meetings have also been held which have resulted in the publication of useful collections of papers. With this rapid explosion of interest, the idea of a book which would make the findings, at present scattered in various informal reports and journal articles, accessible to science teachers, seemed even more important.

The research literature is growing to such an extent that it has become less feasible for such a book to be written by the three of us alone. We have therefore invited a number of people who have undertaken significant research in the field to contribute chapters.

Each chapter focuses on studies of children's ideas about a particular topic area or class of phenomena. The areas we have chosen are those relevant to the physical sciences where a significant amount of research has been undertaken. However, there are still a number of topics which, regretfully, the book does not address.

As well as being on different topics, the chapters differ from each other in a number of respects. Some, for example, give an overview of what is currently known about children's thinking in a particular topic area drawing together the findings of studies carried out in different . . .

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