Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sweaters Give off Heat!

Teaching for Conceptual Change: Confronting Children's Experience by Bruce Watson and Richard Konicek

In this article teacher Deb O'Brien has a predicament, she doesn't know if she should let her students keep believing in their misconceptions, tell them the "correct" facts right away, or let the students work through the actions themselves and let them figure it out by themselves. The students thought sweaters, hats, and blankets gave off heat, without any help from anything else. How could they come up with this misconception? The students explained that when they were cold they needed to put on their hats or sweaters, and then they would get warm. So they believed that if they put in a thermometer in the objects they will see the temperature go up.

One of my science teachers in the past, which I will not name, would have just told us how that is not true and how the heat comes from our bodies and then the hat or sweater keeps the heat on us to keep us warm. But then I could have remembered this information for a short time and then would go back to the misconception...but luckily, Deb O'Brien wasn't one of those teachers, instead she decided to question her students. She decided to let her students figure it out on their own. She decided to let them begin the process of breaking their misconceptions.

Deb did this by having the students set up their own experiments, putting thermometers instead a rug, a hat, and a sweater for days to see if the temperature goes up. A lot of students believed it will, and they got excited when it went up only one degree, which could be easily explained by simply misreading the thermometers at the beginning. Each student keep a journal, along with Deb, and while reading them they all were disappointed at the slow process that was happening. The students were confused, upset, and just did not understand what was happening, and Deb was questioning herself if she should just tell them the facts right away.
One of the students wrote in their journal, "Hot and cod are sometimes strange." Or that they "don't know why" the temperature isn't changing like how they thought it would.

In the long run Deb did not tell them what was going on until a few days went by, and she realized that even though they spent more time on the experiment than she had originally wanted, many of the students were able to understand how these items don't give off their own heat, but they keep us warm from our own heat.
Deb said, "The kids are holding on to and putting together pieces of what they know to explore what kids think is much longer than I told them the facts."
By having the students do the work themselves they are able to see their misconceptions fade away slowly. By using this form of education hopefully the students will remember their experiment and remember the information they learned, instead of having their teacher just blurt out the facts and then have them still believe their misconceptions....

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