chapter  2
26 Pages

Student Conceptions and Conceptual Learning in Science

ByPhil Scott, Hilary Asoko, John Leach

Alice is a 14-year-old high school student, and in her science classes she has been taught quite a lot about the scientific concept of energy. Prior to these lessons Alice certainly used the word “energy” in her every day speech, whether in talking about “having no energy,” referring to the “high energy music” of her favorite band, or trying to reduce “energy consumption” to preserve the environment. During the lessons, Alice struggled to come to terms with some of the scientific ideas, which often seemed to go against common sense. Indeed, her teacher had warned that “this is always a difficult topic to get hold of.” Nevertheless, by the end of the teaching, Alice (who is a bright girl) was able to use the idea of energy in answering questions about batteries and bulbs, chemical reactions, and photosynthesis. However, she still struggled, for example, to see how the products of an exothermic chemical reaction could have the same mass as the reactants, even though “energy has been transferred to the surroundings,” and it didn’t make sense to her that a soda can on her desk “has gravitational potential energy,” even though it “just sits there.”