Conceptual Change in Learning and Instruction

The Framework Theory Approach

Authored by: Stella Vosniadou

International Handbook of Research on Conceptual Change

Print publication date:  June  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415898829
eBook ISBN: 9780203154472
Adobe ISBN: 9781136578212


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Conceptual change research investigates learning requiring the substantial revision of prior knowledge and the acquisition of new concepts, usually under conditions of systematic instruction (Hatano & Inagaki, 2003; Vosniadou & Ioannides, 1998). The term “conceptual change” was first introduced by Thomas Kuhn (1962) to indicate that the concepts embedded in a scientific theory change their meaning when the theory (paradigm) changes. Posner and his colleagues (Posner, Strike, Hewson, and Gertzog, 1982; see also McCloskey, 1983a, 1983b) were instrumental in seeing the relevance of the problem of conceptual change for the learning of science and the extinction of students’ misconceptions. They drew an analogy between Piaget’s (1970) concepts of assimilation and accommodation, and the concepts of normal science and scientific revolution offered by philosophers of science such as Kuhn (1962), and derived from this analogy an instructional theory to promote “accommodation” in students’ learning of science. According to Posner et al. (1982) there are four fundamental conditions that need to be fulfilled before conceptual change can happen: (1) there must be dissatisfaction with existing conceptions, (2) there must be a new conception that is intelligible, (3) the new conception must appear to be plausible, and (4) the new conception should suggest the possibility of a fruitful program.

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