Cognition and Student Learning Education Research

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Ohio State University Project Abstract
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Principal Investigator: Andrew Heckler
Title: Scientific Misconceptions: From Cognitive Underpinning to Educational Treatment

Purpose: The need for nationwide improvement of science education has been well documented. Student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science have shown few or no gains over the last 30 years, but the demands for science competency in the 21st century are growing. There is a growing need for research that examines barriers to learning science and ways to facilitate science learning. One known barrier to successful science learning is scientific “pre-conceptions” or “misconceptions.” A scientific misconception is often defined as everyday beliefs about a natural phenomenon, which are different from an expert scientist’s view of the same phenomenon. These misconceptions are resistant to change. The purpose of this project is to study the cognitive origins of scientific misconceptions and to design interventions to correct them. At the conclusion of this project, the researchers will have a set of interventions that can be used to overcome scientific misconceptions and improve science learning.

Setting: Undergraduates attend Ohio State University; sixth-graders attend a suburban middle school.

Population: Participants in this research project include 400 6th grade students and 2,500 college undergraduates. Students are either participating in laboratory experiments or in an educational intervention implemented as part of standard curriculum activities.

Intervention: The ultimate goal of this research project is to design curricular materials for both 6th grade science courses and for a university-level physics course that incorporates experimentally determined means to help students correct physical science misconceptions.

Research Design and Methods: The research carried out in this project occurs in four parts. First, researchers recreate, demonstrate, and study parameters of “misconception-like phenomena” caused by blocking, learned inattention, and inferential bias errors in controlled artificial domains. Second, the researchers are using a theoretical understanding of misconceptions to design and test the effects of various methods that address artificial “misconception-like phenomena.” Third, the researchers are designing and implementing simple lessons for known physical science misconceptions hypothesized to originate from blocking, learned inattention, and inferential bias errors. Fourth, the researchers are designing, implementing, and assessing curricular materials that can confront misconceptions in physics for both a sixth grade classroom and a university-level physics course. In the classroom experiments, classes of students are randomly assigned to condition.

Control Condition: Experimental controls are used in each of the laboratory experiments. In the classroom experiments, students in the control condition are completing activity sheets that use a standard educational instructional strategy that is significantly different from the first two experimental strategies.

Key Measures: Experimenter-developed measures and tests of student understanding of taught physics content are used.

Data Analytic Strategy: Analysis of variance techniques are used to analyze outcome data for the experiments.

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Last Modified: 11/08/2005