Research in Science Education

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 228-235

First online:

How consistently do students use their alternative conceptions?

  • David PalmerAffiliated withFaculty of Education, University of Newcastle

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Existing research indicates that many students hold an alternative conception that “an object in motion must have a force pushing it along”, but they do not apply this conception consistently to problems involving different types of motion. This project was designed to investigate the degree of consistency of student responses to questions concerned with linear motion. The results indicated that most students were unable to consistently apply either the alternative conception or the correct scientific response. The students appeared to have a general problem in recognising similarities between contexts, even when the contexts were closely related. The results also suggested that the responses of some students were influenced by contextual factors such as the nature of the moving body, the direction of the motion and the speed of the motion.