Research in Science Education

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 857–877 | Cite as

Effect of a Science Diagram on Primary Students’ Understanding About Magnets



The research investigated the effect of a science diagram on primary students’ conceptual understanding about magnets. Lack of research involving students of primary age means that little is known about the potential of science diagrams to help them understand abstract concepts such as magnetism. Task-based interviews were conducted individually with 19 year 3 and year 5 students from a single school. Data captured students’ prior ideas about magnets and changes in their understanding in response to a diagram as the only intervention. Results revealed a variety of outcomes—conceptual understanding was enhanced, reduced, simultaneously enhanced and reduced or not changed. Particular diagram features constrained students’ learning for some students. The study confirms the individual nature of primary students’ learning and has implications for teachers about instructional methods using science diagrams.


Science diagrams Conceptual development Science learning Magnets Primary students 



The author would like to thank David E. Brown (Illinois) for his helpful comments on a draft version of this paper. The assistance of Janette Bobbis as Early Career mentor is also gratefully acknowledged.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee, University of Sydney and the NSW Department of Education and Training. Informed consent was obtained from the school principal and parents prior to participant involvement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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