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Title:An Analysis of the Science Education Problem of Teaching Density as Approached From Two Different Piagetian Research Perspectives: Operationalism and Constructivism
Author(s):Emerick, Blanche Bante
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Educational Psychology
Abstract:This study examined the science education problem of junior high students not learning science concepts requiring formal operational reasoning--concepts such as density. A number of researchers have suggested classifying students into the Piagetian stages of concrete operations or formal operations. They have found that most junior high students can be classified as concrete operational.
The hypothesis of the present study was that, through clinical interviews with junior high students and classification criteria that were not task-specific, more students could be shown to be formal operational than had been reported on tests designed to classify students into stages. It was thought that such tests could underestimate the cognitive development of students by using criteria that are too restrictive and by using paper and pencil tests that preclude probing into student responses. Such probing was thought to be essential to eliciting students' highest levels of reasoning.
The method employed was to conduct clinical interviews with fifteen junior high science students. When the behavior on the interviews was mapped onto the criterial attributes of stages, 33 percent of the subjects demonstrated formal operational reasoning, a finding that suggests that tests can underestimate the cognitive development of students. An unanticipated finding was that all subjects demonstrated preoperational behavior at least once. That range of behavior across stages suggests that classifying students into single-stage categories is of little assistance to teachers making curriculum decisions.
It was discovered that some subjects did have a concept of density, although it was not the formal operational concept of density. It appears that their concept of density is the culmination of a long process of construction of intuitions, perceptions, and operations, possibly beginning during infancy. The concepts of density held by those subjects can be thought of collectively as a concrete operational concept of density. The concept involves thoughts on the composition of objects, relationships among parts, the role that holes play, and logical multiplication. The role that teachers might play is to assist the construction of the formal operational concept of density from the concrete operational concept of density.
Issue Date:1983
Description:239 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1983.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8309937
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1983

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