Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Posner, G. J., Strike, K. A., Hewson, P. W., & Gertzog, W. A. (1982). Accommodation of a scientific conception: Toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education, 66, 211-227.

In a classic paper, the authors present a model of conceptual change which articulates the process by which people's central, organizing concepts change from one set of concepts to another set that is incompatible with the first. Learning, they believe, is a rational activity whereby ideas are accepted because they are intelligible and fit with available evidence. Students use existing concepts to deal with new phenomena (assimilation), but when these concepts are inadequate, the student must replace or reorganize the central concepts (accommodation). What does it take for the student to change his or her central concepts? The authors propose the following conditions as necessary for conceptual change: there must be dissatisfaction with existing conceptions; a new conception must be intelligible; a new conception must appear initially plausible; and a new conception should have the potential to be extended. A study was conducted to explore the conceptual change of physics students. Based on the interview data collected, the authors conclude that conceptual change around a complex topic is gradual and piecemeal. Educational implications are discussed including the suggestion that teaching strategies include the creation of cognitive conflict in students.

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