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A Vygotskian Analysis of Preservice Teachers’ Conceptions of Dissolving and Density

Description: The purpose of this study was to examine the content knowledge of 64 elementary preservice teachers for the concepts of dissolving and density. Vygotsky’s (1987) theory of concept development was used as a framework to categorize concepts and misconceptions resulting from evidences of preservice teacher knowledge including pre/post concept maps, writing artifacts, pre/post face-to-face interviews, examination results, and drawings. Statistical significances were found for pre- and post-concept map scores for dissolving (t = -5.773, p < 0.001) and density (t = -2.948, p = 0.005). As measured using Cohen’s d values, increases in mean scores showed a medium-large effect size for (dissolving) and a small effect size for density. The triangulated results using all data types revealed that preservice teachers held several robust misconceptions about dissolving including the explanation that dissolving is a breakdown of substances, a formation of mixtures, and/or involves chemical change. Most preservice teachers relied on concrete concepts (such as rate or solubility) to explain dissolving. With regard to density, preservice teachers held two robust misconceptions including confusing density with buoyancy to explain the phenomena of floating and sinking, and confusing density with heaviness, mass, and weight. Most preservice teachers gained one concept for density, the density algorithm. Most preservice teachers who participated in this study demonstrated Vygotsky’s notion of complex thinking and were unable to transform their thinking to the scientific conceptual level. That is, they were unable to articulate an understanding of either the process of dissolving or density that included a unified system of knowledge characterized as abstract, generalizable, and hierarchical. Results suggest the need to instruct preservice elementary science teachers about the particulate nature of matter, intermolecular forces, and the Archimedes' principle.
Date: May 2014
Creator: Shaker elJishi, Ziad
Partner: UNT Libraries