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

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  • Watson, B., & Konicek, R. (1990) Teaching for conceptual change: Confronting children's experience. Phi Delta Kappan, 71, 680-685.

"What is heat? . . . Sweaters are hot . . . Let's find out." Thus began a study in a fourth-grade classroom. Students put thermometers in sweaters and were baffled when the temperature did not rise. They did experiment after experiment. They created explanation after explanation. The teacher faced a dilemmaÑshould she tell them the difference between holding heat and emitting heat? The authors describe the students' investigations and the teacher's decision-making process in this article about conceptual change. For these students, the substitution of one theory for another is not an easy matter. Several barriers to their conceptual change may be their own stubbornness, language (everyday meanings vs. scientific meanings), perception, the children's developmental stage, and the difficulty of the concept itself. In this class, the teacher promoted changes in their thinking by asking relevant questions, by having students make predictions, by stressing consistency of statements, and by giving them the time to explore. Finally, with their old theory on the ropes, she offered them a choice of two alternatives, their old theory or a new one that was scientifically correct. This challenged their thinking, they created a new experiment to test the new theory and were on their way to new understanding.

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