Literature review relates to learning physics

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This literature review concerns conceptual change as it relates to learning physics. Strike and Posner proposed a leading model [1] in 1982. Their theory focused on the replacement of concepts that are central in organizing thought and learning. This theory included cases where central concepts were not an issue. They posited that persons do not alter concepts that play a central role in their thinking unless and until they perceive them as dysfunctional. They cite three criteria for concepts: they must be intelligible, plausible, and have the potential to solve current problems. [2] The significant criticism of this theory is that there needs to be a developmental view to be able to effectively employ it. It is important to understand that this type of research is concerned much more than the simple alteration of any particular belief. If this was not the case, then an argument may be made that conceptual change occurs every time a person changes their mind.

Researchers who are involved in the science education system and who are searching for solutions to its shortcomings typically perform conceptual change research. [3] These researchers focus upon those concepts they believe to be at the core of a system of concepts, analogous to what Piaget refers to as accommodation. [4] When a learner makes a paradigm shift, it may be said conceptual change has occurred. Strike and Posner revised their 1982 theory by making the learner's conceptual system larger than what was suggested in the original theory to include motives and goals not related to suggested epistemological factors.

Roschelle [5] attempted to construct an integrated approach to collaboration and conceptual change. He analyzed conceptual change from the perspective of conversational interactions. He posited that the core of collaboration is the problem of convergence; that is, how can two or more persons create shared meanings for interactions. Four primary features can account for the development of convergent conceptual change: the production of a deep-featured situation; the interplay of physical metaphors; the constructive usage of interactive cycles of conversations; and application of higher standards of evidence.

Back in 1984, Hewson and Hewson [6] examined conceptual conflict and its use in instruction. The article examined conceptual conflict from the perspective of an epistemological model of learning as conceptual change. Their analyses illustrated that the conceptual change model could provide an explanation of conceptual conflict sufficiently detailed to be used in the design of curricula.

Tao and Gunstone investigated the process of students' conceptual change during a computer-supported physics class. [7] A conceptual test was administered to a 10th grade physics class as pre- post- and delayed post-tests to determine the students' conceptual change. Students were involved in predict-observe-explain tasks. Students' conversational interactions were recorded, and analyzed. It was found that many of the students wavered between alternative and scientific conceptions. These findings concluded with subsequent suggestions for curricular improvement.

Around that same time, Trigwell, et al. [8] performed an empirical study that demonstrated qualitatively different approaches to teaching are associated with qualitatively different approaches to learning. A teaching approach inventory was developed through interviews with teachers. Conclusions were derived applying factor and cluster analyses of 48 classes that had 46 science teachers and 3,956 students in Australian universities. They cited that previous studies showed a relationship between teacher's perceptions of learning to their approaches to teaching. Additionally, many studies showed correlations between students' motivation and learning outcomes. This study linked these two previous studies, highlighting the importance of discouraging teacher-focused transmission teaching and encouraging a conceptual change focus to teaching. Conceptually, this agrees with the Caravita and Halldén [9] position that epistemological models of the science learner as a scientist constrain rather than optimize learning.

Georghiades address the two problems of students being able to generalize from concepts learned in science classes and forgetting what they learned shortly after initial instruction. [10] He advocated a shift in focus of learning research to accommodate transfer and durability of learned scientific concepts, visioning metacognition as a potential for improvement. This paper offers a brief review of the existing literature, proposes adding metacognitive instruction into the learning environment and reports on recently completed research.

In 2002, Jones and Kunnemeyer [11] reported on the design and outcomes of a teaching program in a tertiary physics class in Taiwan. By providing the students with context-rich questions, the program's goal was to stimulate intellectual participation. Fourteen students were interviewed, while 380 students completed confidential questionnaires. Results indicated improvement of learning through student involvement. However, there was no evidence to suggest an improvement in traditional tests. All of the 14 students interviewed believed that an interactive teaching approach enhanced their concept learning skills. Although all of the students interviewed agreed to the strengths of interactive teaching, their classroom participation was not always high. Possible barriers to this participation included: insufficient physics background, being afraid of being teased by the teacher or peers, and the belief that the teacher could not understand their difficulty in learning the material. These barriers were reflective of both cognitive and sociocultural issues. Based upon these research findings, interactive teaching compared with traditional methods were significant in three areas: the new teaching approach was found to successfully promote interaction; the program developed student perceptions of their own learning; and the results of the survey indicated this is helpful to affective learning outcomes. However, there was no evidence that intervention teaching achieved better performance in traditional tests.

In 2002, Vosniadou [12] outlined a theoretical framework in an attempt to explain the nature of conceptual change that takes place in physical science learning. She argued that a naÑ-ve physics theory is established early in life and forms the basis for students' future views. This presupposed that this theory constrains persons from interpreting physical world observations in a culture bound setting. It is proposed that conceptual change is particularly difficult to achieve and may be contradictory to the scientific view. In 2003, [13] she argues that it is possible for conceptual change to take place without intentional learning. [14] She posits that conceptual change learning takes into account motivational and affective factors whereby children build synthetic learning modes of physics based upon their relationship and interactions with their environment, with conceptual change being a slow and gradual process that is the function of the development of more abstract models. [15] 

Stathopoulou and Vosniadou [16] jointly developed a theoretical position that suggests that personal epistemology initially forms a narrow, but relatively coherent, set of beliefs regarding the nature of knowledge and learning. This set of beliefs gradually becomes more differentiated through cultural experience. According to this view, students must understand that scientific inquiry requires the evaluation of theories vis-à-vis new evidence, possibly resulting in multiple explanations. The approach in this study suggests that development of a scientific concept may require students to completely revise their prior thinking. Again, the concept of naÑ-ve physics is discussed versus from scientific theories learned in school. They reviewed the behaviors of 10 physics students. Outcomes indicated that five held constructivist physics views and had thus adopted a comprehensive approach to learning, while the other five students lacked this perspective, were performance-oriented and preferred the selection of casual study strategies.


Caravita and Halldén: This paper challenges the model of conceptual change widely shared within science education. They posit that studies about biological learning involve change processes, which involve sets of cognitions about conceptual domains, resulting in opportunistic differentiation among interpretations.

Georghiades: This paper advocates a shift in focus concerning conceptual change learning research, addressing the problems of students generalizing concepts learned in school to outside situations and also the role of forgetfulness in these processes.

Hewson and Hewson: This article examines conceptual conflict from the perspective of epistemological models of learning as conceptual change.

Jones and Kunnemeyer: This is a summary of a survey conducted in tertiary physics classes in Taiwan. Both interviews and confidential questionnaires were utilized. The conclusion was that no evidence exists to suggest that improvement to traditional tests is required.

Limón: This article reviews conceptual change within the constructivist view of learning. Reviewed are controversial results obtained from application of cognitive conflict strategies within the classroom, along with discussion of possible factors explaining this difficulty.

Roschelle: The goal of this article is to construct an integrated approach to conceptual change. A central claim is made that four primary features may account for student development of convergent conceptual change.

Stathopoulou and Vosniadou: This article addresses the role of culture in the development of beliefs and concomitant processes involved in knowledge acquisition. They posit that experiential stimuli within a cultural context, is responsible for the student's initial view of the world, which use the label as naÑ-ve physics.

Strike and Posner: This article discusses their previously published theory of conceptual change, criticisms about this theory, and proposed changes to both accommodate these criticisms and developmental theory.

Tao and Gunstone: Observation of students within a science class studying physics was examined in response to developed computer simulations that challenged students' conceptions regarding mechanics. Pre-, post-, and delayed-post conceptual tests were administered to measure conceptual development. Findings led to proposed changes in instructional practices.

Trigwell, Prosser, and Waterhouse: This article reports on an empirical study, which showed that qualitatively different approaches to teaching are associated with qualitatively different approaches to learning.

Vosniadou (2002): This article outlines a theoretical framework that attempts to explain the nature of conceptual change that takes place in the learning of physical sciences.

Vosniadou (2003): This article examines conceptual conflict in the light of an epistemological model of learning as conceptual change. Analysis shows that this model can provide an explanation of conceptual conflict to allow it to be used in the design of instruction.