Bilingual Students' Ideas and Conceptual Change about Slow Geomorphological Changes Caused by Water

Article excerpt


This paper presents the results of an experiment investigating the development of elementary-school dual-language learners' conceptual knowledge about processes of erosion, deposition, and transportation caused by water movement. To elicit students' ideas, researchers asked students to answer four open-ended questions using written answers and/or drawings. Students' responses were analyzed, and misconceptions were organized in a systemic network. A semiquantitative analysis was conducted to investigate changes in students' number of misconceptions as a result of a science and reading instructional sequence. Forty-nine fourth-grade students participated in this investigation. Eleven misconceptions were identified in relation to erosion processes. The science and reading intervention, which focused on the use of cognitive strategies, was effective at reducing the number of misconceptions students held. Changes in the number of misconceptions were significant for four misconceptions explaining slow geomorphological changes based on (1) unnatural explanations, such as magical or man-made explanations; (2) accumulation rather than erosion; (3) forces other than gravity cause water to move; and (4) nonlandform interpretation of terms. Particular aspects of the intervention that could explain these changes are discussed.

© 2012 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/09-145.1]

Key words: science, reading, earth science, bilingual, conceptual change, misconceptions


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the development of dual-language learners' conceptual knowledge about the processes of erosion, deposition, and transportation caused by water movement. We are interested in understanding children's initial knowledge about erosion and in finding out how this knowledge changes as a result of an inquiry-based science and reading intervention (Instruction on Science and Reading [WSCIREAD]).

Children's Earth Science Conceptions

Several studies have been conducted that investigate students' ideas in different areas. For example, there have been studies about Earth's shape and gravity (e.g., Vosniadou, 1992), and lunar phases (e.g., Happs, 1985). However, a breadth of research in the area of students' conceptions about geosciences concepts is lacking (Manduca et al., 2002). More specifically, as Table I shows, prior work has covered a variety of topics in earth science, such as Earth's structure (e.g., Blake, 2005), groundwater (e.g., Dickerson et al., 2005), or watersheds (Shepardson et al., 2007). Some studies have identified misconceptions about specific landforms such as mountains (e.g., Happs, 1982).

Between 1982 and 2009, there have been several studies dealing with research specifically addressing conceptions about Earth processes. The studies have investigated students' understanding of the hydrologie cycle (Bar, 1989; Shepardson et al., 2009), the water cycle (Taiwo et al., 2001; Ben-zvi-Asarf and Orion, 2005), rock, water, and carbon cycles (Sibley et al., 2007), and complex Earth systems (Sell et al., 2006). The findings for these studies are summarized on Table I.

Only a few works have directly addressed erosion and weathering (Russell et al., 1993; Dove, 1997). Dove (1997) used a survey on 236 students, aged 16-19, to ascertain details of their ideas about these two terms. He found that the main idea these students used to discriminate between weathering and erosion is movement. A majority of students in this study appreciated that weathering occurs in situ, whereas erosion involves transport. Many participating students regarded weathering as solely related to atmospheric elements. Human actions were perceived by these learners as types of accelerated erosion, but uncertainty surrounded whether animal activities are bioerosion or biological weathering.

Blake in his 2005 study investigated students' conceptions in relation to Earth structure, including the processes of erosion and weathering. …


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.