In This Chapter

Roles for Explanatory Models and Analogies in Conceptual Change

Authored by: John J. Clement

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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In this chapter I will review some major approaches to instruction for producing conceptual change in scientific explanatory models, including the use of analogies. While space precludes a full review here, I want to present enough research to describe some of the interesting interrelationships between analogies, models, and conceptual change. I will put more emphasis on literature from science education, since Jonassen and Easter (Chapter 30, this volume) have emphasized findings on models from educational psychology. I will concentrate on model-based, cognitive strategies for fostering conceptual change in science as an outcome in individual students. Many of these strategies will involve considering the roles that group discussions and co-construction with a teacher can play, and so some socio-cognitive processes will be included. To be sure there are other recent studies that address other social, cultural, metacognitive, and motivational factors that can have very important influences on conceptual change. However, we still need to address an enormous gap that remains at the core of conceptual change theory: We do not have an adequate cognitive model of the basic conceptual change process. Most of the “classical theory” of conceptual change in science education (Posner, Strike, Hewson, & Gertzog, 1982, Strike & Posner, 1992) is about conditions for change (e.g., dissonance), effects of change (e.g., a more plausible conception, developmental stages of conceptions), or factors that make it easier or more difficult (e.g., the presence of a persistent misconception). What is missing is a fuller specification of mechanisms of conceptual change. Many suspect that models and analogies can play a central role in conceptual change. But there is not even a consensus on a definition for the term “model” itself. And we are hard pressed to describe something as basic as the relationship between analogies and models in science learning. Historians of science such as Hesse (1966) and Harre (1972) understood that this relationship is complex and subtle in science itself, so we should expect no less in the area of student learning. Thus, there is still much work to do within the basic cognitive core of individual conceptual change theory as well as outside that core in motivational, metacognitive, and socio-cultural realms.

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