Conceptual change is complex. This is probably the only relational statement about conceptual change that everyone interested in the field will agree upon. While recognizing other people’s thinking exist, from this point on in individuals have preferences they prefer to explain how conceptual occurs and guide their thinking about how to best attain conceptual change. The concept map provides a way of illustrating the various possibilities; however, even a concept map is skewed by the maker’s preferences for what should be illustrated and the relationships identified. Personally, I like cleaner illustrations, so many relationship lines are not connected on this concept map for that reason, although I recognize, and understand, that many additional relationships could be drawn. This map is a representation of conceptual change to demonstrate my referencing in thinking about conceptual change and is arranged in a somewhat logical form that coincides with how I think.
The concept map I have constructed can be parsed in three ways. First, on the top and right side of conceptual change are simple statement relationships about conceptual change situating some aspect of what contributes its existence or how handle. Beyond being complex, conceptual change is trying to change misconceptions to accept conceptual understandings all while being influenced by prior knowledge and the strategies learners use to develop knowledge. One relationship of importance to me in this section is about conceptual change being comprised of two components. There is a concept and a conception. I believe there are some interesting conversations to be had over concepts (i.e. force) and the conceptions (explanation of force) as to what needs to change. By this I am asking what constitutes conceptual understanding since a learner may be able to use a concept appropriately to solve a problem, but unable to contextually describe what it is they have done. Is this a concept problem or a conceptualization problem? And does it matter?
The second area emphasized in this concept map is the existence of several theories that have been developed relative to addressing conceptual change. Each of these theories has some research that backs up its claim to being appropriate to addressing conceptual change. Given the evidence of some support that each of these theories can play a successful role in designing activities to address conceptual change, I wonder if there isn’t a larger grand theory that encompasses both the theoretical knowledge-in-pieces vs. knowledge-in-theory component with the affective domain and sociocultural components. Regardless, these theories act as guides driving the research into conceptual change today.
The final part of the concept map identifies that research on conceptual change is significant, despite its limitations. As mentioned earlier, numerous successful interventions to develop conceptual understanding have been developed using the various theoretical perspectives. In the end, there are some unanswered questions regarding the transferability, durability, and timing associated with the development of new conceptual understanding. The most significant, in my opinion, is the timing factor. Many studies seem to rely on simply demonstrating a new conceptual understanding post an intervention experience and claiming conceptual change has occurred. I question that timing as “true” conceptual change. To me, a time discrepancy between intervention and testing (and possibly multiple testing times –such as 6 months or year later) is necessary to demonstrate “true” conceptual change. I do not want to minimize the accomplishment of the intervention, but “true” conceptual change would be resistant to decay over time. Whereas I suspect the conceptualization that was accepted as evidence of conceptual change post-intervention assessment for many individuals has decayed to a conceptualization that would not register as complete conceptual understanding now. Harkening back to earlier, the question then becomes whether the learner’s ability to use the concept, describe the concept, or both has decayed.
This concept map is a construct of how I organize my thinking around conceptual change and I hope provides a means for someone else to look at conceptual change in a unique light.