Students conceptual understandings and ideas are likely long established prior to entering the classroom. While these can be based on personal experiences or long-held beliefs, these ideas are, unfortunately not always correct. These overall themes are evident in the short documentary, A Private Universe (1987), as well as presented in the readings on constructivism (Fosnot, 2013). Both the video and reading establish that students have their own pre-existing concepts and notions, which ultimately need to be “straightened out” as new concepts emerge and compete. Fosnot further argues that the role of educators is to change not necessarily “dispense knowledge” but also to provide “opportunities and incentives” to construct learning.
The article selected for further examination studies several different misconceptions held by both teacher and students in regards to the physical sciences (Burgoon, Heddle, & Duran, 2010). The misunderstanding of particular interest is one regarding the general concept of gravity. The article discusses the common confusion with the concept in which objects at different heights experience a different force of gravity. The study confirmed a general belief and association by both teachers and students alike that objects at a higher elevation are experiencing “more gravity” wherein fact gravity is always present regardless of height or elevation. The article addresses some of the concerns raised in educating students if teachers themselves held misconceptions but proposed some solutions such as increasing awareness and professional development.
In regards to digital technologies and instructional activities to help nurture student understanding, there are online simulations, phet labs, and video clips. Fosnot, however, would argue that students need opportunities to change and construct their learning, to help my own students overcome the gravitational misconceptions explored by Burgoon, Heddle, and Duran (2010), I use a combination of digital motion detectors linked to graphing to allowing students to create their own explorations on relationship between gravity and height. By dropping objects from various elevations, students are able to examine and confirm the notion that the force of gravity and acceleration remain constant.
Burgoon, J., Heddle, M., & Duran, E. (2010). Re-examining the similarities between teacher and
student conceptions about physical science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 21(7),
Fosnot, C.T. (2013). Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice (2nd ed.). New
York: Teachers College Press
Sahiner, A. (Producer), & Schneps, M. (Director). (1987). A private universe [Documentary].
United States: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.