ISSN-2231 0495

Studying the Science Learning Contexts While the Topic/Area of Explorations was ‘UNIVERSE’

Studying the Science Learning Contexts While the Topic/Area of Explorations was ‘UNIVERSE’

Rakesh Kumar

Assistant Professor

MV COLLEGE OF EDUCATION,

University of Delhi.

Abstract

Present study aims at studying the science learning contexts while the topic/area of explorations was ‘UNIVERSE’. The study reveals that the teacher observed that the  learners  were  interested  in  group discussions and group activities; the learners were eager  to  know  something  more  than  the  text book; teacher should use other reference books and resources; teacher also used learners’ experience which was good; all teachers should use learners' experiences to explain the topic and should satisfy the learner; Learner should also use other resources  like  internet. More exploration of the learners’ questions like,-“How moon rotates? What is Moon? What does surface of Moon look like? How much time does it take to complete one rotation? Is there water on Moon? What is the actual size of Moon? What is universe?” may be needed. Many possible sites of formation of Alternative Frameworks have also been revealed through learners’ diagrams. E.g. “All paths of rotation are circular in nature; notion of changes in the shape of moon; Has moon two sides-front and back”. These type of diagrams can be considered by the teacher to be starting point of their explorations of the learners’ Alternative Frameworks.

Key Words: Teaching-Learning contexts, Universe, Alternative Frameworks, network of conceptions, learners’ questions, learners’ diagrams

 

1. Introduction

“The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach him accordingly”

(Ausubel, 1968)

(Worth, 1999) in ‘The Power of Children’s Thinking’ thinks of children as natural scientists and posits that, “They do what scientists do, but perhaps for some slightly different and less conscious reasons. They are anxious to understand the world just as adults are or one can say even better than them. There is a terribly interesting, but rather confusing, world full of stimuli all around them. Many adults, however, have learned to ignore some of that world rather than investigate it. Young children ignore very little” (Worth, 1999). The curiosity of children is many times evident in the questions that they ask. Since children are more curious and receptive than usual adults. Instead of idealised world of scientific theories, they weave. The web of their understanding from the exploration of messy world around them and this is with what a child enters the school.

“Moreover when children start school and throughout their school years, they already have pre-formed ideas about how the natural world works. These ideas may come from within the instructional setting or from their experiences outside of school. Research has shown that teaching is unlikely to be effective unless teachers and curriculum materials take into account learners’ preconceptions” (Driver, Squires, Rushworth, & Wood-Robinson, 1994). When asked ‘What causes the phases of the moon? Why does season change?’ Learners do come up with some answers, even though they have not had any such discussions with elders, says  (Weiler, 1998).

“Some call these early ideas that children form as Alternative Frameworks; others label them naive conceptions, or alternative conceptions. Alternative Frameworks might also be referred to as preconceived notions, non-scientific beliefs, naive theories, mixed conceptions, or conceptual misunderstandings. Basically, in science these are cases in which something a person knows and believes does not match what is known to be scientifically correct. These terms identifying similar mismatches are used interchangeably in this study and are referred to as Alternative Frameworks” (Worth, 1999).

Karen Worth further argues that “a child is not going to give up his theory made by so much effort and observations just because an adult disapproves it or a single event challenges it. Children do not want to give up the concepts and theories they work so hard to make. They take their experiences and struggle to come up with understandings that work in their daily lives. They are not about to drop their ideas just because someone says so, or because an event disproves what they have come to believe. As anyone familiar with the history of science can attest, even adults have trouble changing theories that are well grounded in experience. If a child's theory works, if it has been productive and the child has worked hard to build that theory, he/she will not give it up unless he/she has a lot of new experiences that provide reasons to do so” (Worth, 1999). “Learners’ conceptions change progressively as they are exposed to additional relevant information in higher grades” (Lee, 2007).

“The term alternative conception is used to mean learners’ ideas, manifested after exposure to formal models or theories, which are still at odds with those currently accepted by the scientific community” (Boo, 1998). There is however a clear cut difference between the terms alternative conceptions and alternative framework. This difference is related with the consistency of using an alternative conception in more than one context. “When an alternative conception is used with consistency over more than one context or event, it is referred to as an alternative framework” (Boo, 1998).

2. Need of Study:

Alternative Frameworks have many serious concerns attached with their presence and something especially concerning about them is that we, at all stages of our development, continue to build further knowledge on our current understandings. This development of learning would be seriously impacted if there are Alternative Frameworks at their core (Black, 2006). “Specifically, the major concerns involve identifying (a) potential underlying beliefs that may influence the construction of concepts, (b) cognitive processes that contribute to the construction of concepts and meaning, (c) variables that affect conceptual development, and (d) variables that may influence the construction of meaning” (Bloom, 1990).

The following effort is directed to the issue of identification of possible sites of Alternative Frameworks and explorations of the teaching  learning  contexts  in which these have been explored has been drawn from the reflections and analysis of the teachers teaching them.

3. Research Methodology

3.1 Research Questions and Objective

The following questions are focussed:

  • How do science learners perceive their natural classroom environment while a topic UNIVERSE is being undertaken?
  • What are the possible sites of formation of Alternative Frameworks when the topic UNIVERSE is taken up in the classroom?
  • What questions come to learners’ mind when the topic UNIVERSE is taken up in the classroom?

The study has focused on the following objectives:

  • Exploring teaching learning contexts in science classrooms, with special reference to topic UNIVERSE being undertaken.
  • Identifying possible sites of formation of Alternative Frameworks when the topic UNIVERSE is taken up in the classroom (if any).
  • Identifying the questions that come to learners’ mind when the topic UNIVERSE is taken up in the classroom.

3.2 Methodology, sample and tools:

Methodology: 

The researcher came to the understanding that there might be many more possibilities of formation of Alternative Frameworks in the life experiences of science learners that might need deep probing. For this, the science learning experiences were explored to locate potential sites of formation of Alternative Frameworks. Based on understanding developed from the review of related literature and researcher’s own experience as science teacher/teacher educator, a comprehensive tool was developed by the researcher. This tool related to different issues related to different areas of the teaching-learning processes in science.

These 38 Pre-Service science teachers who are the B.Ed. students of the two of Education in Delhi, India) were chosen as convenient samples for the study. Most of the observations, interpretations, analysis and reflections done by the participants were discussed with them also to develop their insight about their own science classrooms. These 38 prospective science teachers of the two colleges (MV College of Education and GRD College of Education in Delhi) who were chosen as samples for the study have henceforth been addressed as science teachers. These science teachers were also a connection to reach to the science learners in the schools. Thus an input from the science classrooms was available to the teachers during their school life experience program. All types of schools were allotted to these science teachers during their school life experience program.

A tool described in later part of the study tool was used on these 38 pre-service teachers. But the data from 30 pre-service science teachers was collected in the form of self-assessment feedback regarding 592 Science lessons transacted by them during their school life experience program. 8 Pre-service teachers became non-responding. All types of schools were allotted to these science teachers during their school life experience program as described later. Training of teachers was done for both data collection (one day) and analysis (three days). In addition, two days were devoted for reflection and discussion on resolution of the problems faced during the process.

Sample

Total 38 Pre-Service Science teachers participated from two B.Ed. colleges of University of Delhi and GGSIP University, Delhi. This “ensured participation of total 18 schools in which above Pre-Service teachers had their School Life Experience Program. These teachers had diverse graduation and post-graduation subjects.

Figure 1 - Classification of teachers’ sample

Figure_1
 
 

Figure 2 - Classification of School sample

Figure_2

Notations: G- Government; P- Private; G.A.-Government Aided; K.V.-KendriyaVidyalaya

 

Out of total 38 Pre-Service teachers, code numbers 1.01 to code number 1.30 were given to 30 Pre-service teachers from Guru Ram Dass College of Education and 8 Pre-Service teachers from Maharishi Valmiki College of Education received code numbers 2.01 to code number 2.08. Clearly, the sample is not a random sample but a purposive one. Although no deliberate attempt was made for the sample to be homogeneous or representative, it got addressed in the process to some extent. The science teachers belonged to different socio-economic backgrounds. The science learners’ belonged to different sorts of school settings. These types of schools included all boys’ school, all girls’ schools, government, government aided and public schools. Therefore, we can say that different socio-economic backgrounds and diversity in teaching-learning settings has been represented largely in the sample.

3.3 Tools for data collection

In the review of the available tools, it was identified that these tools cannot be used in order to collect required data for the present study or in other words, suitable tools for getting the relevant data could not be located. Thus, in order to explore teaching learning contexts in science classrooms with respect to possible sites of formation of Alternative Frameworks among learners in science, a tool was thus developed in the form of a questionnaire. The major themes of the questionnaire include exploration about the resources that the learners tend to tap, their preferred learning styles, possible sites of Alternative Frameworks, their notion about themselves as science learners etc.

To validate the tools, the First draft of tools was given to experts namely school teachers, and colleagues in teacher education institutions, and ambiguous language and other issues resolved and the items modified subsequently.

In the questionnaire filled by the science learners in different schools in Delhi, the question number six was ‘Mention the question you asked/wanted to ask’. In order to analyse these questions, the researcher categorized the questions in the response to this question in terms of the topics/areas they represent. Originally 449 questions were received from the science learners.  After removing repetitions, 17 areas finally emerged out of these questions as categories. In the questionnaire filled by the science learners in different schools in Delhi, the question number thirteen was ‘What figures, diagrams and scientific terms did you use? Please draw/write it.’ On this question total 908 diagrams and figures were received and were grouped according to the concept represented in them. In each of the groups the analysis follows regarding the concepts depicted and possible sites of alternative framework. In the study, the questions asked by them were also explored. This part along with the preceding one constitutes the breeding ground of Alternative Frameworks amongst learners in science that will need deep probing to start the journey of addressing them. Also it is to be noted that this approach can guide the science teachers to assist learners in moving towards scientific conceptions that are at the heart of science learning by identifying the point of start. The analysis of figures and diagrams made and terms used by science learners was analysed to identify following sites of formation of Alternative Frameworks that will further deep probing for understanding of their context.

3.4 Collection of data:

The questionnaire prepared by the researcher and vetted by two eminent scholars was used for the collection of data. This questionnaire was distributed to more than 1207 learners of science (as described in the Figure 3) studying in classes sixth to tenth across Delhi and received from total 979 learners. These schools catered to the needs of a diverse population. Some particular topics were under focus in various schools (due to the schedules fixed by the educational structure) at the time when data from school was collected. Thus, some topics got more coverage in the study than the others as the topics under discussion were not in researcher’s control.

 

 

Figure 3 - Classification of science learners

Figure_3


The questionnaire for science learners containing total 17 items was given after transaction of 12 to 15 lesson plans and collected on the same day itself by the science teachers. The primary task of analysing and reflecting on these questionnaires filled up by the science learners was given to the science teachers so that they are able to make linkages with their own classrooms in their particular contexts, which is not possible for the researcher to make. Science teachers were given about 10 days for this task. This analysis and reflection was summarized by the researcher and analysed to see patterns, exceptions and other aspects. Two of those 17 questions from the questionnaires filled up by the science learners were analysed by the researcher. These two questions were related to ‘questions that are coming to the mind of the science learner’ and second the ‘figures, diagrams and scientific terms used’ by the science learner. While the former was analysed to understand the nature of questions that are coming to the science learners mind, the latter was analysed to identify the concepts depicted and the possible sites of Alternative Frameworks (if any).

4. Analysis of Data

Questions from the questionnaires filled up by the science learners were analysed in two ways.

(a)        The first and the primary analysis was done by their own science teachers, that are discussed in part

(b)        Two questions i.e. question number six and number 13 were analysed by the researcher only. Question number six was related to the questions that come to the students’ mind while the teacher was transacting a particular lesson on a topic from their curriculum and question numbered 13 was related to the figures and diagrams made and terms used by the science learners. The study includes only the analysis from these two questions.

In order to analyse these questions, the researcher categorized the responses to question no. 6 of the questionnaire in terms of conceptual areas. Originally 449 questions were received from the science learners. After identifying repetitions, 17 broad conceptual areas of questions finally emerged. These questions along with the topic have been reported in the study. On the response to Question number 13 a total of 908 diagrams and figures were received and were grouped according to the concept represented in them. These were analysed with two major focuses namely the concepts and the keywords representing the possible sites of Alternative Frameworks. These two have been reported along with the original diagrams and figures drawn by the science learners in the study. In order to meet the ethical standards, the names and identifiable information of the science learner has not deliberately been put on the figures and diagrams. But the questionnaire responses filled up by every learner was coded so that the linkage with the sheet can be made without having to identify the personal information of the science learner and is imprinted on every diagram and figure.

The type of questions posed by the learners are questions from activity done in the class, conceptual queries, dilemmas, from their own observations around them, basic questions that are definitional in nature, queries that require reasoning and arguments, exploratory questions requiring experimenting, questions projecting Alternative Framework sites etc. Table 1 shows the details of the teacher and the leaner along with the topic/area that emerged from the natural settings as described above.

Table 1 - Details of emerging topics/areas along with teachers and learners on possible sites of alternatives frameworks

37_table1


5. Results

5.1 Teaching-Learning Contexts:

The teacher observed that the  learners  were  interested  in  group discussions and group activities; the learners were eager  to  know  something  more  than  the  text book; teacher should use other reference books and resources; teacher also used learners’ experience which was good; all teachers should use learners' experiences to explain the topic and should satisfy the learner; Learner should also use other resources  like  internet.

Analysis of questions asked:

5.2 Questions asked related to the topic/area ‘Universe’

37_table2



5.3 Diagrams

diagram_1




diagram_2


diagram_3


diagram_4

diagram_5

diagram_6

diagram_7

diagram_8

diagram_9

diagram_10

diagram_11

diagram_11

diagram_12

diagram_13


5.4 Possible sites of Alternative Frameworks from analysis of figures and diagrams made by science learners

Solar System:

  

 

 

 
  1. All paths of rotation are circular in nature. (Diagrams-1.24.1-1,1.24.8- 1,1.24.18-1)
  2. Changes in the shape of moon
  3. Has moon two sides-front and back

6. Conclusions:

The study reveals that during or after the teaching learning processes related to the topic UNIVERSE following represents the learners’ framework - The teacher observed that the  learners  were  interested  in  group discussions and group activities; the learners were eager  to  know  something  more  than  the  text book; teacher should use other reference books and resources; teacher also used learners’ experience which was good; all teachers should use learners' experiences to explain the topic and should satisfy the learner; Learner should also use other resources  like  internet. More exploration of the learners’ questions like,-“How moon rotates? What is Moon? What does surface of Moon look like? How much time does it take to complete one rotation? Is there water on Moon? What is the actual size of Moon? What is universe?” may be needed. Many possible sites of formation of Alternative Frameworks have also been revealed through learners’ diagrams. E.g. “All paths of rotation are circular in nature; notion of changes in the shape of moon; Has moon two sides-front and back”. Comparative analysis of Data related to the Possible Sites of Alternative Frameworks shows that “Changes in the shape of moon” is one of the observed Alternative Framework in the study. Similar misconception was observed by (Driver, R., Squires, A., Guesne, E., Tiberghien, 1985) as “The shape of the moon changes because the shadow of Earth falls on the moon.” (Blizak, F. Chafiqi, 2009) found that there is no change in learners’ misconceptions after 20 years of research concerning light and optical phenomena. They also noted that the misconceptions, which have been found in earlier studies, also exist in the understanding of present day learners. They found some new misconceptions like ‘light propagates in the horizontal direction when the Universe doesn’t exist’. We can therefore use some of the research done at one place in one classroom situation, in another classroom situation too. 

References:

  • Ausubel, D. P. (1968). Educational Psychology: A Cognitive View. New York: Holt: Rinehart & Winston.
  • Black, S. (2006). Is Science Education Failing Students? American School Board Journal, (November), 48–51.
  • Blizak, F. Chafiqi, and D. K. (2009). Students Misconceptions about Light in Algeria. Optical Society of America.
  • Boo, H. K. (1998). Students’ understandings of chemical bonds and the energetics of chemical reactions. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(5), 569–581.
  • Driver, R., Squires, A., Guesne, E., Tiberghien, A. (1985). Children’s Ideas in Science. Open University Press.
  • Lee, M. (2007, November). High School Students’ Alternative Ideas about Chemical Bonding. Dr. Foley. SED 690.
  • Weiler, B. (1998). Children’s misconceptions about science. Operation Physics. American Institute of Physics. Http://amasci. Com/miscon/opphys. Html (accessed March 26, 2007).
  • Worth, K. (1999). The Power of Children’s Thinking (2nd ed.). Washington DC: National Science Foundation.


 

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