Unlearning Mistaken Ideas: Studies Referenced In The Brilliant Report

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In Issue 23 of The Brilliant Report, I write about how we can use evidence-based techniques to rid ourselves of incorrect assumptions and conceptions. Here are abstracts of and links to the studies I cite:

“Effects of Prior Knowledge Activation Modes and Text Structure on Nonscience Majors’ Comprehension of Physics
Donna E. Alvermann and Cynthia R. Hynd
The Journal of Educational Research, 1989
Our purpose in this study was to investigate a pragmatic, low-cost way to enhance student learning of complex science concepts without totally revamping texts or methods of instruction. Undergraduate nonscience majors (N = 62) with known naive conceptions ahout projectile motion were randomly assigned to one of six groups formed from three levels of a prior knowledge activation activity and two levels of text. The results of a multivariate analysis of variance showed that activating competent readers’ naive conceptions about a complex science concept is not as effective a means for dispelling inaccurate information as is the practice of activating their naive conceptions and then explicitly directing them to read and at tend to ideas that might differ from their own. This result and the no difference found for refutation text are discussed within the context of earlier work and Kintsch’s (1980) observation that incongruity leads to new learning.

“Refutation Text in Science Education: A Review of Two Decades of Research”
Christine D. Tippett
International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 2010
As people attempt to make sense of the world, they develop personal knowledge structures. These structures often contain misconceptions—inaccurate or incomplete information—that are highly resistant to change because existing knowledge networks must be restructured to accommodate counterintuitive information in a process known as conceptual change. Since textbooks are the dominant resource for science instruction in most classrooms, text-based methods of facilitating conceptual change need to be examined. Since the mid-1980 s, researchers have investigated the conceptual change potential of refutation text, a text structure that includes elements of argumentation and that has been described as one of the most effective text-based means for modifying readers’ misconceptions. In this paper, twenty years of refutation text research in science and reading education is reviewed and then a secondary analysis of those results is conducted to explore developmental aspects of the efficacy of refutation text. Although a developmental relationship was not revealed, two decades of research indicate that reading refutation text rather than traditional expository text is more likely to result in conceptual change.

“The Challenge of Changing Deeply Held Student Beliefs about the Relativity of Simultaneity”
Rachel E. Scherr Peter S. Shaffer, and Stamatis Vokos
American Journal of Physics, 2002
Previous research indicates that after standard instruction, students at all levels often construct a conceptual framework in which the ideas of absolute simultaneity and the relativity of simultaneity co-exist. We describe the development and assessment of instructional materials intended to improve student understanding of the concept of time in special relativity, the relativity of simultaneity, and the role of observers in inertial reference frames. Results from pretests and post-tests are presented to demonstrate the effect of the curriculum in helping students deepen their understanding of these topics. Excerpts from taped interviews and classroom interactions help illustrate the intense cognitive conflict that students encounter as they are led to confront the incompatibility of their deeply held beliefs about simultaneity with the results of special relativity.


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