Development of Pupils’ Competences to Identify Obstacles during Research-based Science Teaching

By Michael Skoumios and Vassilia Hatzinikita.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Pupil’s conceptions appear to be particularly resistant to modification during teaching interventions. One approach to this difficulty that has been developed in Science Education focuses teaching and learning on the elaboration of pupils’ obstacles, which form a kind of ‘hard core’ to their conceptions (Peterfalvi, 1997; 2001). Effective didactic elaboration of obstacles to pupils development of scientific conceptions includes an initial ‘destabilisation’ phase’, followed by ‘conceptual reconstruction’ and ‘identification’ phases. The final phase aims to develop student competence in identifying the manifestations of the conceptual obstacles so that they can avoid them in future. The present paper reports a study of the development of pupils’ obstacle identification competence at upper primary school level (aged 11-12) through research-based teaching sequences focused on teaching elaboration of the obstacles of heat and temperature. These sequences involved student completion of a series of post-cognitive activities, suitable for developing their competence in identification of the obstacles. The qualitative analysis of the oral and written speech of the pupils during the teaching sequences showed that most pupils are able to develop the competence to identify the obstacles. In particular, the pupils proceeded to (i) a ‘reflective detachment’ from their original conceptions, (ii) a ‘displacement’ from the local to the transverse level of obstacles (i.e., displacement of formulations referring to certain objects –‘local level’– to formulations including more general conceptions and references to general ways of thinking –‘transverse level’–) and (iii) a ‘movement’ from expressing judgments using terms like ‘right/wrong’ to formulations referring to dynamic and functional aspects of the obstacles (i.e., judgments and explanations about the occurrence of wrong answers).

Keywords: Competences, Didactic Elaboration, Recognition of Obstacles, Science Teaching

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 9, pp.237-248. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 699.137KB).

Dr. Michael Skoumios

Researcher, School of Humanities, Hellenic Open University, Rhodes, Greece

Michael Skoumios obtained a first degree in Physics from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in 1987, a second degree in Education from the University of Aegean in 1992 and his PhD in Science Education from the Hellenic Open University in 2005. His research interests include science concept learning and teaching science in primary and secondary schools.

Prof. Vassilia Hatzinikita

Academic Coordinator of the Master in Education, School of Humanities, Hellenic Open University, Athens, Greece

Associate Professor Vassilia Hatzinikita is currently an academic coordinator of the Master in Education in the Hellenic Open University and a coordinator of Educational Research in Action module. Her research interests concern science teaching and learning as well as the analysis and development of educational materials. She has published a considerable number of research papers in journals, books and conference proceedings and has developed educational material for the Science Education module of the Hellenic Open University.


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