I believe that all learners have conceptual challenges when learning new ideas, similar to how educators teach with assumptions that they may not have noticed before seeing students struggle with the content. I don’t have a lot of experience teaching Science theories to students. However, from my little experience, I did notice that it doesn’t really matter what subject I was teaching, regardless of age, the students usually come into the classroom with some knowledge of the topics to be learned already. This knowledge is sometimes complete, sometimes not, sometimes correct and sometimes not. It is also quite hard to have everyone in a classroom start on new topics at the same level, so it becomes a bit of a challenge for the teacher to scaffold students. More than often, I find that the best way that works for me is to start topics from brainstorming together first. Get a sense of what everyone knows already, then review some previously taught material then connecting them to the new topic. More than often for myself, the best way that works is to start topics by brainstorming together first. Through that activity, I would then get a sense of what everyone knows already, from that I can then review some previously taught material before helping students make connections to the new topic.
This prior knowledge, fuels these personal theories developed by students and are often hard to overwrite and can take a long time to do so as they are personal and so “makes sense” to the students much more than something new being taught be the teacher. Most of the time, it’s easier to say “others just don’t understand my idea” than to really see that they’ve made a mistake in their theory because it “makes sense” to them. I believe that this challenge was very visible in Heather. Her theories made sense to her, so even though it was different from what the teacher taught after, she actually tweaked her theory instead of dumped her idea.
With advancements in technology and education, when Heather was later able to remember and recite the correct theory/answer with manipulatives next to her, it reminded me of the Multiple Intelligence Theory and how everyone learns differently, and manipulatives can be helpful for learning. It helped when she had a 3D visual instead of the 2D representation she was asked to draw. This also made me see the manipulatives as technologies used in classrooms. Though not digital, they were just as effective. When the manipulatives were first introduced to the classroom before the digital age, it was probably considered new media as well. But now, they are just regular mediums to have in a classroom, while new media are being introduced.
If the same “Four Seasons” question was to be asked by students now, they would have had the chance to learn the same material with digital media, so perhaps their answers may be different. Digital technology may have helped current students “see” the theory better, but may not help them understand or make internal connections though it might be easier.
Just a thought: Maybe that’s why we often find students not retaining course content as much as the need for them to make their own theories have decreased. As answers can just be googled.