A Bird’s-Eye View of the “Pieces” vs. “Coherence” Controversy (from the “Pieces” side of the Fence)

Authored by: Andrea A. diSessa

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 central principle of conceptual change research is the constructivist idea that “old” ideas constrain learning. In classroom-relevant study, conceptual change research has laid blame for difficulties at the feet of “entrenched naïve ideas.” In physics, naïve ideas said to be like the medieval impetus theory of motion must give way to counterintuitive Newtonian ideas (McCloskey, 1983). Similarly, developmental studies seek to find the great intellectual accomplishments of childhood in dramatic revisions to the way domains are construed. Childhood biology has been claimed to be psychological (Carey, 1985) or “vitalistic” (Inagaki & Hatano, 2002), in stark contrast to adult or scientific ideas about living things.

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