, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 102-111

Concept substitution: An instructional strategy for promoting conceptual change

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Abstract

Numerous studies have shown that students often hold conceptions that conflict with accepted scientific ideas, both prior to and after instruction. The failure of instruction to affect students' conceptions can be interpreted as a failure to facilitate conceptual change. In this paper, an instructional strategy will be described that facilitates conceptual change in the special case where conceptual difficulties appear to arise because students confuse related physics concepts. The strategy involves two parts. Firstly, students observe an experiment or demonstration that conflicts with what they expect to see. Secondly, the instructor identifies students' intuitions that are correct but that they have associated with an incorrect physics term, and substitutes the correct physics term. Students can thus develop more scientifically acceptable understandings of physics concepts without having to give up their intuitive ideas. The use of this strategy will be illustrated in two domains of physics.

Specializations: physics education, conceptual development, instructional design, improvement of tertiary science education.