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Alternative Conceptions of Learning
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Alternative Conceptions of Learning
CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND PEDAGOGY
ALTERNATIVE CONCEPTIONS OF LEARNING
ALTERNATIVE CONCEPTIONS OF LEARNING
When teachers provide instruction on concepts in various subjects, they are teaching students who already have some pre-instructional knowledge about the topic. Student knowledge, however, can be erroneous, illogical or misinformed. These erroneous understandings are termed alternative conceptions or misconceptions for intuitive theories).
Alternative conceptions (misconceptions) are not unusual. They are quite a normal part of the learning process. We naturally form ideas from our everyday experiences, but obviously not all the ideas we have are correct with respect to the most current evidence, most current and scholarship in a given discipline. Moreover, some concepts in different content areas ONLY areas are simply very difficult to to grasp, They may be very abstract, counterintuitive or or quite complex. Hence, our understanding of them is flawed. In addition, things we have already learned are sometimes unhelpful in learning new concepts/theories. This occurs when a new concept or theory is inconsistent with what was learned when the previous material. Accordingly, as noted, it is very typical for students (and adults) to have misconceptions in different domains (content knowledge areas). Indeed, researchers have found that there are common set alternative conceptions (misconceptions) that most students typically exhibit. There is one class of alternative theories (or misconceptions) that is very deeply entrenched. These are “ontological misconceptions, which relate to ontological beliefs (Le., beliefs about the fundamental categories and properties of the world). Alternative conceptions (misconceptions) can
impede learning for several reasons. First, students generally are unaware that the knowledge they have is wrong. Moreover, misconceptions can be very entrenched in student thinking. In addition, new experiences are interpreted through these erroneous understandings, thereby interfering with being able to correctly grasp new information. Also, alternative (misconceptions) tend to be very resistant to instruction because learning entails replacing or radically reorganizing student knowledge. Hence, conceptual change has to occur for learning to happen This puts teachers in the very challenging position of allecing happen. needing to bring about significant conceptual change in student knowledge. Generally. ordinary forms of instruction, such as lectures, labs, discovery learning, or simply reading texts, are not very successful at overcoming student misconceptions. For all these reasons, misconceptions can be hard nuts for teachers to crack. However, several instructional strategies have been found to be effective in achieving conceptual change and helping students leave their alternative conceptions behind and learn correct concepts or theories.
Instructional strategies that can lead to change in students’ alternative con ceptions (misconceptions) and to learning of new concepts and theories
- Present new concepts or theories that you are teaching in such a way that students see a plausible, high-quality. intelligible and generative
- Use students’ correct conceptions and build on those by creating a bridge of examples to the new concept or theory that students are having trouble learning due to misconceptions they hold.
- Use model-based reasoning. which helps students construct new representations that vary from their intuitive theories.
- U se diverse instruction, wherein you present a few examples that challenge multipleassumptions, rather than a larger number of examples that challenge just one assumption.
- Help students become aware of (raise student metacognition about their own alternative conceptions (misconceptions)
- Present students with experiences that cause cognitive conflict in students’ minds. Experiences (as in strategy 3 above) that can cause cognitive conflict are ones that get students to consider their erroneous (misconception) knowledge side-by-side with. or at the same time as the correct concept or theory.
- Engage in Interactive Conceptual Instruction (ICT).
- Develop students’ epistemological thinking. which incorporates beliefs and theories about the nature of knowledge and the nature of learning, in ways that will facilitate conceptual change. The more naive students’ beliefs are about knowledge and learning, the less likely they are to revise their misconceptions.
- Help students “self-repair” their misconceptions.
- Once students have overcome their alternative conceptions (misconceptions).
Presenting new concepts or theories
In presenting new concepts or theories, teachers should be sure to show these theories or concepts as
1. Plausible: The new information should be shown to be consistent with other knowledge and
able to explain the available data. Learners must see how the new conception (theory) is consistent with other knowledge and a good explanation of the data.
2. High quality: Of course, the theory concept to be taught is of high quality from a scientific point of view, since it is a correct theory. However, the presented theory should take a better account of the data than what students currently have available to them. For example, the instructor should deal with the problem from the perspective of the students (e.g.. students for whom a “flat earth theory provides a better account of the data available than does a “spherical earth” theory), Hence, the quality of the new theory must be considered along with the kind of data that students know about
3. Intelligible: Teachers should do what they
can to increase the intelligibility of the new theory. Learners must be able to grasp how the new conception works. To increase intelligibility, teachers can use methods such as use of:
- Models, and
- Direct exposition.
4. Generative/fruitful: Teachers should show that the new concept/theory can be extended to open up new areas of inquiry, Learners must be able to extend the new conception to new areas of inquiry Teachers might accomplish this by illustrating the application of the new conceputheory to a range of problems. These problems can include familiar ones and new ones
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