Conceptual Change in the Social Sciences

Authored by: Cecilia Lundholm , Peter Davies

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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The research evidence base for conceptual change in social science is thin compared to the evidence base in science and mathematics education. Murphy and Alexander (2008, p. 597) suggest that this is because it is “easier to identify misconceptions of or naïve theories in biology or physics, in comparison to history or reading where ‘correct’ or ‘scientifically-valid’ positions are elusive.” We accept this explanation and the implication that contesting theories within a discipline increase the difficulties in making judgments between “better” and “worse” conceptions. Disagreements over theory within a discipline draw attention to alternative value positions, and relationships between conceptual structure, values, and identity play an important role in our understanding of conceptual change in social science. To make our task manageable we restrict our attention to conceptual change in economics and environmental studies. Of course, the ideas and evidence discussed in this chapter may apply weakly, if at all, to other disciplines in social science.

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