ENE 595 Conceptual Change – First Post

Our class started out the semester with reading articles from Vosniadou, Posner et al., and Carey as an introduction to conceptual change (CC). Posner et al. states that no theory (of conceptual change) can function psychologically at all unless it is internally represented by the individual (pp. 216). Carey presents six educational implications as far as defining concepts as “units of metal representation” (pp. 17) and Vosniadou provides us with the “Mechanisms of Conceptual Change” as a mode of viewing the discussion of knowledge transfer in CC. In the following classes, we discussed barriers to CC and the roles they in the educational realm. Chi (2005) suggests that concepts are more difficult to learn when: 1) they are not directly observable, and 2) when a macroscopic pattern emerges from observable microscopic phenomena (direct vs. emergent concepts). The CHEER article gave the class a schema of how conceptual understanding may be categorized – in a “hierarchy of categories and sub-categories.” Therefore, context affects students’ conceptual understanding. By this time, the class had the idea that 1) conceptual change is a difficult, herculean task, 2) conceptual change is organized in such a way that in order to change, the sub-categories must be changed in order to change the over-arching category, and 3) the barriers to conceptual change outnumber the strategies to perform conceptual change properly. In addition, Vosniadou presents a constructivist view with a theory built on naïve conceptual frameworks. diSessa constructs concepts in a sub-conceptual way – coherence off concepts or just pieces of concepts. Chi furthers both ideas with coherence (like diSessa) and fragmentation and the structure of concepts. All three authors believe that prior knowledge effects CC.

An aside to structure, Slotta & Chi (2006) state that concepts are ontological in nature. Chi et al (2012) presents the element of emergent vs. sequential processes. This idea displays conceptual change as a process instead of a concept itself.
Furthering our understanding of conceptual change took a different route when we discussed why conceptual change DOESN’T WORK. Chinn & Brewer address the issue: How do students respond when they encounter scientific information that is different from their own theory about the world? And, offer seven responses as to why CC may not even work. Responses include: ignoring anomalous data, rejecting it, and incorrect interpretation. Then Reiner et al (2000) state that theoretical change may not happen because giving correct explanations to students may be too difficult and not comprehended; therefore, CC doesn’t happen.

A main topic up until now has to deal with participatory learning from Gorodetsky & Keiny (2002) as a means of conceptual change. They view learning as a process that involves a community of learners. But Sinatra (2002) focuses on knowledge acquisition on individual knowledge while ignoring social contexts. After class discussion, we believed that participatory learning was a solid means to conceptual change due to the fact that students are more likely to listen and learn from their peers rather than from a formal lecture from a professor or teacher. Touching on the idea of participatory learning (PL) as a tool for CC, Leach & Scott describe PL as a tool for knowledge acquisition; so combining the two ideas from Gorodetsky & Keiny (2002) and Sinatra (2002).

Lastly, Saljo proposes that concepts are linguistic or discursive phenomena that do concrete work in concrete settings. Also, cognition and conceptual knowledge are not construed over time and space, but rather as mental phenomena that cause behavior somehow.

One thought on “ENE 595 Conceptual Change – First Post

  1. You started out the semester feeling that conceptual change was a Herculean task. How do you feel now that we have read more literature about conceptual change? Does the process of conceptual change seem any easier to you now?

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