Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Change in Elementary School Students' Misconceptions on Material Systems after a Theoretical-Practical Instruction

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Change in Elementary School Students' Misconceptions on Material Systems after a Theoretical-Practical Instruction

Article excerpt

Introduction

Teaching and learning chemistry could be considered as a complicated task mainly due to the high conceptual nature of the discipline, with a vast amount of interlinked and abstract concepts (Johnstone, 2000; Tümay, 2016). Consequently, quite often chemistry is a priori considered as a difficult topic to learn among students and even a hard-to-teach subject among instructors.

In the teaching-learning process, students construct their own knowledge as an iterative process, in which the new concepts or ideas need to make sense in the frame of the conceptions that they already possessed (Taber, 2009). However the real implementation of such constructivist approaches in Primary School is not always easy (Ari, Kizilaslan Tunçer & Demir, 2016), and as previously stated by Bedir (2015), their success has a high dependence on the teachers' skills in the use of methods and techniques based on studentcentered activities. Accordingly, detecting the ideas that students already have prior to the instruction is a key stage, since it constitutes the linkage between old and new concepts. Moreover, before starting any kind of instruction, students already possess understanding about many scientific topics that form a mental framework, referred to as the scaffolding (Horton, 2007; Kleichmann et al., 2016). At this point it is a must to define misconceptions, which are individual constructions or mental representations of the world that students have adopted in order to understand the environment and to act accordingly. Misconceptions are characterized for being firmly held by the students, who are not often willing to change (Treagust & Duit, 2008; Dağdelen & Kösterelioğlu, 2015). It is important to notice that these conceptions lead to conceptual mistakes and might be an obstacle for learning scientifically correct concepts. Thus, in the building up of the learning process, students need to arrange all the new information to get it fit into the scaffolding. Sometimes these arrangements do not agree with the current scientific thought, which gives rise to misconceptions (Taber, 2001), and therefore, the new knowledge is constructed into a conceptually faulty base. Misconceptions should not be considered as a handicap for students to incorporate new knowledge, but a necessary starting point from which student will be able to build new scientific understanding from a constructivist point of view (Furió-Mas, Calatayud & Barcenas, 2007). Thus, misconceptions should be taken into account when planning and implementing instruction (Taber, 2008) and must be considered by the teacher during the educational process to ease the rebuilding of the knowledge in a significant way, which would turn into meaningful learning (Martins Teixeira & Moura Bezerra Sobral, 2010). When providing effective instructional approaches, to overcome misconceptions, students will be able to connect the former and new conception in order to later acquire a real meaning.

The resistant nature of misconceptions may discourage teaching efforts, and research on educational science has put effort in developing strategies to induce the transformation of misconceptions into scientific conceptions, or at least, to more scientifically accurate concepts. This set of strategies or instructions was named as "conceptual change" (Leach et al., 1997). The conceptual change could be defined as the modification of students' conceptions and their substitution by other, more scientifically accepted ones, which ensures the appropriate learning (Harahan, 1994). In fact, learning scientific concepts should not only consist of replacing an idea with another scientifically accepted one, but in making connections between spontaneous student theories and scientific theories. Students must get to understand the superiority of accepted theories, and to achieve that situation they should be faced with conflictive situations that cannot be solved by using their own theories. …

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