Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 1361–1387 | Cite as

Promoting Conceptual Development in Physics Teacher Education: Cognitive-Historical Reconstruction of Electromagnetic Induction Law

  • Terhi Mäntylä


In teaching physics, the history of physics offers fruitful starting points for designing instruction. I introduce here an approach that uses historical cognitive processes to enhance the conceptual development of pre-service physics teachers’ knowledge. It applies a method called cognitive-historical approach, introduced to the cognitive sciences by Nersessian (Cognitive Models of Science. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 3–45, 1992). The approach combines the analyses of actual scientific practices in the history of science with the analytical tools and theories of contemporary cognitive sciences in order to produce knowledge of how conceptual structures are constructed and changed in science. Hence, the cognitive-historical analysis indirectly produces knowledge about the human cognition. Here, a way to use the cognitive-historical approach for didactical purposes is introduced. In this application, the cognitive processes in the history of physics are combined with current physics knowledge in order to create a cognitive-historical reconstruction of a certain quantity or law for the needs of physics teacher education. A principal aim of developing the approach has been that pre-service physics teachers must know how the physical concepts and laws are or can be formed and justified. As a practical example of the developed approach, a cognitive-historical reconstruction of the electromagnetic induction law was produced. For evaluating the uses of the cognitive-historical reconstruction, a teaching sequence for pre-service physics teachers was conducted. The initial and final reports of twenty-four students were analyzed through a qualitative categorization of students’ justifications of knowledge. The results show a conceptual development in the students’ explanations and justifications of how the electromagnetic induction law can be formed.


Magnetic Flux Conceptual Change Electromagnetic Induction Teaching Sequence Interpretative Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the Academy of Finland through grant SA1133369.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.School of Education and EnvironmentKristianstad UniversityKristianstadSweden

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