Changing our minds: a commentary on ‘Conceptual change: a discussion of theoretical, methodological and practical challenges for science education’
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- Mercer, N. Cult Stud of Sci Educ (2008) 3: 351. doi:10.1007/s11422-008-9099-8
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This paper begins with a consideration of some important themes dealt with in the paper by Treagust and Duit. These include the relationship between research on conceptual change and educational practice, the significance of emotion and identity in the process of conceptual change, and role of cognitive conflict in motivating change. I then argue that the authors implicitly assert the importance of spoken dialogue as a motor for conceptual change, but do not give it the proper, explicit recognition that it deserves. I first use their own data of transcribed talk to make this point, and then go on to elaborate my case by drawing on other research. Talk amongst students and teacher–student talk are both considered. My conclusion is that while more empirical research is needed to understand how dialogue is involved in conceptual change, available evidence shows very clearly that the role of talk and social interaction is so significant that it cannot be ignored. It is therefore necessary for theoretical accounts to deal with both social (i.e. communicative) and cognitive aspects of conceptual change.