Encyclopedia of Science Education

Living Edition
| Editors: Richard Gunstone

Alternative Conceptions and P-Prims

  • Andrea DiSessaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6165-0_87-2

Setting the Scene

The discovery of students’ alternative conceptions constitutes one of the major landmarks of science education. No longer is it sufficient to study only “effective methods,” or general learning processes. Instead, the field came to understand that students had particular and resilient ideas about various scientific domains, which strongly affect learning.

Few doubt this constructivist presumption today. However, there is still much debate about how to construe these phenomena. As a result, there is also debate concerning how one should best pursue good instruction in the light of alternative conceptions. P-prims theory offers a carefully articulated and systematic approach to understanding the nature of students’ naïve ideas, their origins, and their role in coming to understand science concepts deeply.

P-prims theory is part of a broader approach, called “Knowledge in Pieces” (KiP), to understanding the nature of students’ intuitive ideas and their role in learning....


Theory Theory Alternative Conception Knowledge Integration Scientific Idea Intuitive Idea 
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Further Reading

  1. A full account of p-prims theory:Google Scholar
  2. diSessa AA (1993) Toward an epistemology of physics. Cogn Instr 10(2–3):105–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Contrasting p-prims with theory theories:Google Scholar
  4. diSessa AA (2013) A bird’s eye view of “pieces” vs. “coherence” controversy. In: Vosniadou S (ed) International handbook of research on conceptual change, 2nd edn. Routledge, New York, pp 31–48Google Scholar
  5. Tracking moment-by-moment learning with p-prims:Google Scholar
  6. diSessa AA (2014) The construction of causal schemes: learning mechanisms at the knowledge level. Cogn Sci (in press)Google Scholar
  7. A p-prims account of learning through analogies; individual differences:Google Scholar
  8. Kapon S, diSessa AA (2012) Reasoning through instructional analogies. Cogn Instr 30(3):261–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. A Knowledge in Pieces analysis of “misconceptions”:Google Scholar
  10. Smith JP, diSessa AA, Roschelle J (1993) Misconceptions reconceived: a constructivist analysis of knowledge in transition. J Learn Sci 3(2):115–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA