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Amsterdam, 8 December 1993 Professor David L. Haury JSTE 1929 Kenny Road Columbus, OH 43210 - 1080 U. S. A.

Dear Professor Haury: Subject: Manuscript #920508 144 Thank you very much for your letter of November 18, 1993. Enclosed you will find the revised version of my paper in hard as well as in soft copy (file BERG.WP5 in WordPerfect 5.1). Hopefully, I have addressed the concerns of the reviewers to your satisfaction. The original paper was written in Indonesia. Since returning to the Netherlands, I have read a number of papers about the use of alternative conceptions in teacher education, including some examples from developing countries. I have incorporated these in the revised paper and supplied a better rational and some more background information. I dropped the example of the cognitive conflict demonstration and refer instead to the description in White and Gunstone's Probing Understanding. I also dropped the abstract following your suggestion.

Sincerely yours,

Ed van den Berg Centre for Development Cooperation and Services (CDCS) Free University De Boelelaan 1115 1081 HV Amsterdam Netherlands E-mail: EDBERG@NAT.VU.NL fax: 31 (country code) 20-646 2320



Euwe (Ed) van den Berg1 Centre for Development Cooperation and Services Free University, De Boelelaan 1115 1081 HV, Amsterdam Netherlands

The article is based on the author's experience (1981-1991) in physics teacher education at Satya Wacana Christian University, Salatiga, Indonesia.



I. Pre-service teacher education

Introduction and context In the past many science teaching methods courses were quite general. Students studied various theories of learning, educational goals, instructional objectives, teaching methods and evaluation. Topics specific to science education might have included inquiry methods, however, approaches very specific to teaching science content were few. The study of alternative conceptions (see Table 1 for definitions) provides ways of making science teaching methods courses more content focussed and thus more obviously relevant to pre-service students and in-service teachers. At the same time, such courses provide an opportunity to discuss and perhaps remediate problems of prospective teachers with high school level science. This paper

describes a course on alternative conceptions in physics which has been used with pre-service students as well as with in-service teachers. In colleges for teacher education in Indonesia, the number of physics pre-service students is usually sufficient to design special courses. In fact, teacher education students declare their major upon first enrollment and collectively follow a program designed for their major field of specialization. The program is designed at a national level and implemented nation-wide. Unfortunately, almost all the nationally

prescribed science courses concern college level science and there is little opportunity to remediate (secondary) school science and gain a deeper understanding of it. McDermott (1990) clearly demonstrated the inadequacy of traditional college physics courses by themselves to reach this deeper understanding of school science.

However, many teacher education programs in Indonesia and elsewhere do not yet offer the opportunity of special science courses for teachers of the type suggested by McDermott. A solution might then be to create a special methods course on

alternative conceptions in school science and their remediation. In countries or institutions where numbers of pre-service students in any discipline are too small for a special course, the course could be broadened to include concepts from different disciplines. What should be the purpose of such a course? Many alternative conception researchers plead for methods of teaching which are based on constructivist theories of learning such as the generative learning model (Osborne & Wittrock, 1985). Typical constructivist strategies include concept

mapping, cognitive conflict, use of analogies, individual or small group laboratory work, much discussion among peers in small groups, and much interaction with the teacher. Some of these strategies have been well described in the book Probing Understanding by White and Gunstone (1992). More important yet is thought to be meta-learning, e.g. that students become more aware of their own learning and learn to consciously use learning strategies. Obviously meta-learning is very important for pre-service students and it could be argued that the main goal of pre-service programs is to change the pre-service students' conceptions of learning and teaching (Gunstone, 1993; Fensham & Northfield, 1993). Fensham and Gunstone (1993) emphasized meta-learning in a 10 month residential program for prospective Filipino in-service instructors and reported successes after much struggle to "convert" students to meta-learning during the first three months of the program. Whether the Filipino instructors were able to productively apply meta-learning in their own in-service programs is not yet known. The role envisaged for the teacher in constructivist classrooms differs greatly from the conventional role of the teacher, and certainly from teacher behavior in classrooms in Indonesia and other developing countries. Large classes (45 students/class), small

classrooms, low salaries frequently necessitating second jobs, limited laboratory facilities and equipment, limited availability of textbooks, and a crowded exam syllabus make more individualized teaching next to impossible for the "average" teacher under "average" conditions. Therefore our teacher education program at Satya Wacana Christian University in Indonesia opted for a rather pragmatic approach. On the one hand the program emphasized competency in conventional whole class (rather than individualized) teaching methods with much emphasis on activating students through interaction (questioning), seatwork, short demonstrations using commonly available objects and materials (Liem, 1987, 1991), and linking science to everyday-life experience. In a poor teaching environment, pre-service students should at least become competent conventional teachers. On the other hand pre-service students were also exposed to other methods such as small group work and individual research projects in science and science education courses. Pre-service students also tried out some non-conventional methods in teaching assignments with small groups of students in nearby schools (in addition to student teaching whole classes). In a better teaching environment pre-service students should become teachers who are able to use a variety of creative methods.

Course purpose Considering the pragmatic approach and its rational explained above, it was decided to limit the course to the study of alternative conceptions and remediation strategies rather than ambitiously try to go to the meta-cognitive level. In short: the purpose of the course (17 weeks x 4 hours/week) is to acquaint pre-service physics teachers with the existence of alternative conceptions, examples, origin of alternative conceptions, cognitive psychology, and diagnosis and potential remediation techniques. At the same time the course should offer the opportunity to make (third year) pre-service students aware of their own conceptions with high school physics subject matter and

should attempt to remediate these alternative conceptions.

Program Initially (in 1986), the course was sequenced according to education aspects of alternative conceptions: it would start with diagnosis of alternative conceptions through written tests, interviews, and inspection of student's home work. Then, we would discuss some topics in cognitive psychology but not in-depth. The second half of the course would be spent on various remediation schemes/techniques, such as cognitive conflict, anchor-bridges analogies, and the four phase approach of Osborne and Freyberg (1985). Physics examples would be extensively used and discussed, however, the physics topic used, might change every meeting: now mechanics, then electricity, and then back again to mechanics. Since 1989 the course is sequenced according to physics topics and the instructor sticks to a certain physics topic for a number of meetings. Within each topic (say forces) there is discussion of diagnosis and remediation of frequently encountered alternative conceptions. The current instructional objectives and order of topics as developed over four versions of the course are described in tables 2 and 3.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------INSERT TABLES 1, 2 AND 3 ABOUT HERE ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Course assignments Assignments consist of readings (in the Indonesian language) on physics and educational aspects of alternative conceptions (Berg, 1991), diagnostic interviews with junior and senior high school students, a research project (usually focussing on

diagnosis), solving conceptually oriented physics problems selected from diagnostic tests and textbooks such as Hewitt (1985) and Halliday & Resnick (1978), preparing and executing (micro-teaching) physics demonstrations for achieving cognitive conflict, analyzing and revising poor laboratory worksheets intended for teaching concepts, and correcting and analyzing essay answers of high school students to conceptual questions.

Cognitive conflict demonstrations Many methods for remediation of alternative conceptions contain a conflict phase (Nussbaum & Novick, 1982; Osborne & Freyberg, 1985). Research has shown that cognitive conflict is not sufficient for conceptual change but has to be part of a wider strategy which might combine various teaching methods. However, cognitive

conflict remains an important method for triggering student awareness of their conceptions and subsequent classroom discussions. Two of the main methods in creating cognitive conflict are student laboratory work and teacher-led demonstrations. With both methods, students make predictions (based on their conceptions) which are then tested in a laboratory or in demonstration experiments. Demonstrations have some advantages over student laboratory work in achieving cognitive conflict (Dekkers & Thijs, 1993). In demonstrations, it is easier to get the students focussed on the relevant variables and keep them from being side-tracked by the irrelevant ones. Furthermore, teacher control over the student activities is greater and use of time is more efficient, and last but not least, teacher preparation time for demonstrations is less than for practicals. However, one has to make sure students are involved and that is done by inserting individual activity into the class demonstration, for example, by having students write down their own predictions and explanations before the actual demonstration takes place. The results of such

individual tasks are then used in discussion, with the advantage that far more students

participate in the discussion than without the individual component. In the latter case, the most vocal "volunteers" would dominate. The large class sizes (45 students per class), curriculum/exam pressure and limited facilities in developing countries, constitute another reason to (often) prefer demonstration over student laboratory. In the two methods courses prior to this alternative conception course, much emphasis is put on the use of demonstrations and teaching aids to show and explain physics phenomena and link them to students' everyday lives. These courses include some classroom practise in schools. In the alternative conception course a specific kind of demonstration is exercised: the use of a demonstration to contrast student predictions (based on their conceptions) with experimental results and to provide students excercises in thinking back-and-forth between observations and implicit beliefs or theories (Berg, 1988). This kind of demonstration is now often called "Predict-Observe-Explain (POE)" demonstration. An excellent description can be found in a recent book by White and Gunstone (1992).

Many of the pre-service students in our program do quite well in these demonstrations as they have had demonstration training in their previous two methods courses. However, in-service teachers clearly need training. In spite of warnings not to announce the experimental results beforehand, many in-service teachers start with: Today we will prove that..... That way, no cognitive conflict will occur and students will be bored. Demonstrations fit for this approach are those where students are quite confident that they can predict the outcomes (even though their predictions will be wrong). Examples can be found in many items of common alternative conception tests. Good sources are also Liem (1987, 1991) and de Vries (1958, 1960). Obviously, a teacher should not exclusively use POE's but also use other, non-counterintuitive, types of demonstrations.

Evaluation Pre-service students are evaluated on 1) mastery of physics concepts discussed in the course, 2) knowledge about frequently encountered alternative conceptions, 3) the report of the individual research project, and 4) other assignments such as performance in micro-teaching demonstrations. Mastery of concepts and knowledge about common alternative conceptions constitute about 70% of the grade.

Results In the course, participants discover many alternative conceptions in themselves. It is disappointing to see that even pre-service students with good results in basic physics courses sometimes still regress and exhibit some major misconceptions. On the other hand, after encountering their own misconceptions (and feeling embarrassed), many course participants are highly motivated to correct their conceptions. Rather exciting discussions occur from time to time, between students as much as between students and the instructor. Most pre-service students make quite a bit of progress in mastery of high school level concepts as evidenced by the final course exam (compared to pretests for various physics topics). However, we do not know yet how long these effects last. The least one hopes to achieve is that pre-service students will be more aware of their own alternative conceptions so that warning lights start flashing in their heads when they start to teach particularly sensitive topics. Our best students (top 20%) conduct undergraduate thesis research and so far, 5 students have done their research on diagnosis and description of alternative conceptions, resulting in 4 national level paper presentations and 7 publications. These thesis students made great conceptual gains as evidenced from the diagnostic tests and interview protocols they constructed and interpretation of data.

The design and execution of the course on alternative conceptions made us take a second look at some first year science courses. For example, a course on electricity was completely overhauled, leading to welcome improvements of student achievement (Berg et al., 1992).

II. In-service teacher education

Poor science subject matter mastery of teachers and lecturers is a problem in many developing countries including Indonesia. In most cases, this poor subject matter mastery has been caused by the poor quality of secondary and higher education and NOT necessarily by lack of intellectual ability. One major cause is the lack of monitoring of individual performance and proper feedback in the educational system K - 12 plus college. In-service programs where school subject matter is simply being repeated, are not popular. Teachers feel they have already studied the subject matter and they are also teaching it. It is felt as humiliating when they have to restudy school science. Furthermore, if subject matter is simply taught again in the same way in-service participants have studied the material before, it is unlikely that teachers will discover their weaknesses and misconceptions. On the other hand, the alternative conception research shows where student (and teacher) problems are. So knowledgeable instructors of in-service training can go straight to the potential weaknesses rather than waste time on repeating subject matter already mastered by participants. Confrontation with their own alternative

conceptions in rather simple problems, can (if tactfully handled) lead to high motivation of teachers in restudying high school level physics during an in-service training. At the same time, teachers experience that physics is more than filling in

formulas and juggling some mathematics. We have applied this approach in a number of short in-service courses in Indonesia and managed to generate high motivation. We have not had opportunities for evaluation of long-term conceptual progress. The main benefit of a short in-service course might be increased sensitivity of participants to their own alternative conceptions and that in itself might be a source for a gradual long term improvement of concept mastery. Short 3-4 day workshops we have run, are as follows: Typically we take one or two physics subjects such as Heat or Electric Circuits. The choice of topics is usually determined by the participants' teaching schedule right after the in-service. Fortunately, that schedule is the same all over Indonesia. At the start of the

workshop teachers take an anonymous diagnostic test concerning these topics and then they work through remedial laboratory exercises based on the items of the diagnostic test and participate in subsequent classroom discussion of physics concepts. Then there is a discussion of conceptual change and remediation strategies but always within the context of the physics topics chosen. The remainder of the workshop is spent on remedial physics exercises to improve subject matter mastery and on micro-teaching in which teachers exercise remediation strategies and techniques such as conceptual conflict demonstrations. Although the workshops use individual or small group laboratory work, emphasis in remediation strategies is on whole class teaching methods as class size (45 students/class), facilities, and teacher background make the use of more individualized methods unlikely. Remedial

materials and readings are taken from the pre-service course. In-service teachers usually are quite worried about the microteaching. Senior high school teachers are more nervous about it than elementary school teachers. However, afterwards many of them consider microteaching a useful experience.

III. In-service education of college and university faculty

At the university level the alternative conception approach to improvement of basic physics knowledge of lecturers could work well also. We once tried this in a national workshop for lecturers of Physics and Physics Teacher Education Departments in universities and colleges. Participants kept good motivation in exercises of high school level concepts. Some have started research on alternative conceptions and have made conference presentations already. Lucas et al. (1992, 1993a, 1993b) have provided in-service for teacher educators in Papua New Guinea (4 week course) and for teachers and in-service instructors in Fiji. They report similar problems with subject matter mastery of participants. Lucas and his colleagues also used alternative conceptions as a focus for the in-service training, amongst others, working with concept maps and they report a high interest on the part of participants and a self-sustained follow-up among part of them (such as continued use of concept maps). A major component of the work of expatriate science lecturers in developing countries concerns course development and training of junior lecturers, not through workshops, but through team teaching and other forms of collaboration. Knowledge of alternative conceptions could help to identify the bottle necks in science courses (often wrongly assumed to be only due to mathematics) and in junior lecturer's subject matter mastery. Such bottle necks could be restructured with a different teaching approach and home work assignments. Work on such matters with junior lecturers will be slow, but potentially very rewarding. The expatriate scientist should realize that science alternative conceptions among junior lecturers are also encountered in industrial countries.


Beeby, C.E. (1979). Assessment of Indonesian Education: A Guide to Planning. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research with Oxford University Press. Berg, E. van den (1988). The demonstration: A neglected teaching method. Journal of Science and Mathematics Education in S.E. Asia, XI(1), 19-25. Berg, E. van den (1991). Miskonsepsi Fisika dan Remediasi (Misconceptions and remediation). Salatiga (Indonesia): Satya Wacana Christian University.

Berg, E. van den, Darjito, A., van den Berg, R. (1992). Misconceptions on electric current and potential: Assessment and remediation. Journal of Science and Mathematics Education in S.E. Asia, XV(1), 68-80. Berg, E. van den, Lunetta, V.N. (1984). Science teacher diploma programs in Indonesia. Science Education, 68(2), 195-203. Dekkers, P., Thijs, G.D. (1993). Effectiveness of practical work in the remediation of alternative conceptions in mechanics with students in Botswana. Paper presented at the Third International Seminar on Misconceptions and Educational Strategies in Science and Mathematics, August 1-4, 1993 (to be published in electronics proceedings of the seminar). Dupin, J.J., Johsua, S. (1989). Analogies and "modeling analogies" in teaching: Some examples in basic electricity. Science Education, 73(2), 207-224. Fensham, P.J., Gunstone, R.F. (1993). Cross-country cooperation in curriculum change and professional development. Paper presented at the International Conference on Science Education in Developing Countries: From Theory to Practice. Jerusalem, 3-7 January 1993. Fensham, P.J., Northfield, J.R. (1993). Pre-service science teacher education: An obvious but difficult area for research. Studies in Science Education, 22, 67-84. Gunstone, R.F. (1993). Can we prepare teachers to teach in the way that students learn? Key-note lecture, International Conference on Science Education in Developing Countries: From Theory to Practice. Jerusalem, 3-7 January 1993. Halliday, D., Resnick, R. (1978). Physics (third edition). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Hewitt, P. (1985). Conceptual Physics (fifth edition). Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Katu, N., Lunetta, V.N., van den Berg, E. (1992). The development of conceptions in basic electricity: An application of "teaching experiment" methodology. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science


Teaching, Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 21 - 25, 1992. Liem, T.L. (1987). Invitations to Science Inquiry (2nd Edition). ISBN 1-878106-21-X. Published by Science Inquiry Enterprises, 14358 Village View Lane, Chino Hills, California 91709, U.S.A. (Also included in the NSTA catalog). Liem, T.L. (1991). Invitations to Science Inquiry, Supplement to First & Second Edition. ISBN 1-878106-01-5. Publisher: see above. Lucas, K.B., Swinson, K.V., Tulip, D. (1992). Effective professional development for teacher educators in Papua New Guinea. Paper presented at the International Seminar State-of-the-Art of Research in Science and Mathematics Education in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, RECSAM, Penang, Malaysia, 17-19 February 1992.

Lucas, K.B., Tulip, D.F., Swinson, K.V. (1993a). Professional enrichment in the disciplines of science and mathematics for teacher educators in Papua New Guinea. Paper presented at the International Conference on Science Education in Developing Countries: From Theory to Practice. Jerusalem, 3-7 January 1993. Lucas, K.B., Cook, A. (1993b). Transforming secondary science teaching practice in Fiji: A collaborative staff development project. Paper presented at the International Conference on Science Education in Developing Countries: From Theory to Practice. Jerusalem, 3-7 January 1993. McDermott, L. C. (1990). A perspective on teacher preparation in physics and other sciences: The need for special science courses for teachers. American Journal of Physics, 58(8), 734-742. Nussbaum, J., Novick, S. (1982). Alternative frameworks, conceptual conflict and accommodation: Toward a principled teaching strategy. Instructional Science, 11, 183-200. Osborne, R., Freyberg, P. (1985). Learning in Science: The implications of children's science. Auckland: Heinemann. Osborne, R., Wittrock, M. (1985). The generative learning model and its implications for science education. Studies in Science Education, 12, 59-87. de Vries, L. (1958, 1960). The Book of Experiments, The Second Book of Experiments, The Third Book of Experiments. London: Murray. Walberg, H. J. (1991). Improving school science in advanced and developing countries. Review of Educational Research, 61(1), 25-69. White, R., Gunstone, R. (1992). Probing Understanding. London: The Falmer Press.


Table 1: Definitions

A concept is the concept as currently intended by the community of scientists (the currently dominant view of the concept) and described in good textbooks. Please note the importance of relationships between concepts. It is through its network of relationships with other concepts that a concept acquires its meaning. Such relationships can be pictured in a concept map. Conception refers to an individual's interpretation of the meaning of a concept. Such an interpretation would usually have some idiosyncratic features, even if the individual is a scientist. For example, conceptions of scientists with regard to major concepts such as atom or force might still be slightly different. Conceptions could be pictured in conception maps, analogous to concept maps. A misconception or alternative conception is a conception which in some aspects is contradictory to or inconsistent with the concept as currently intended . Such inconsistency often shows in one or more relations of the conception with other conceptions, thus involves usually more than one concept. A preconception is a conception which has been formed without exposure to formal instruction (in school) about the concept. However, often the term preconceptions is used for the conceptions at the beginning of a course, then preconceptions are free of influence of that course, but may have been influenced by previous courses.


Table 2: Instructional objectives

Students are able to: 1. define and distinguish terms like concept, conception, misconception, alternative conception, preconception, alternative framework, assimilation, accommodation. 2. make concept maps of the major concepts in the junior and senior high school physics syllabi, these concept maps concern relationships between concepts and between concepts and real world examples. 3. explain potential causes for alternative conceptions (constructivism). 4. give examples of alternative conceptions in mechanics, electricity, heat, optics, modern physics, and selected mathematics concepts and contrast the alternative conceptions with current scientific concepts and their interrelations. Concepts included are amongst others Mechanics: position-velocity-acceleration, force-momentum-impulse, independence of horizontal and vertical motion of frictionless projectiles, Newtons laws and student conceptions of them, forces on objects at rest, work-energy; Electricity: current, voltage, energy, power, brightness of lamps, series and parallel circuits, various arrangements of voltage sources, examples of alternative conceptions such as local/sequential reasoning, attenuation model, voltage source as constant current source, etc.; Heat: heat-energy-temperature, intensive and extensive variables, flow of heat energy, heat capacity versus specific heat; Optics: seeing ("radar" idea, eidola), propagation and speed of light, colors, reflection; Modern Physics: continuous versus atomic view of matter, student conceptions of atoms and bonding; Mathematics: length-area-volume, proportionality and its application, differentiation and integration. 5. write items for a diagnostic test. 6. explain the generative learning model of Wittrock and Osborne. 7. explain briefly the basics of constructivism. 8. analyze and improve instructions for demonstration and laboratory exercises for concept learning. 9. write demonstration and laboratory instructions for teaching concepts and remediating alternative conceptions. 10.identify alternative conceptions through interviewing and diagnostic testing.


Table 3: Contents of course on alternative conceptions in Physics

1. Several examples of alternative conceptions in physics. 2. Assimilation and Accommodation in conceptual development. 3. Concepts, Conceptions, Alternative conceptions, Concepts and Conception maps. 4. Alternative conceptions in Mechanics starting with forces on objects at rest. Activities include working through conceptual problems taken from the alternative conception literature and from sources such as Hewitt (1985) and Halliday & Resnick (1978). Answers to part of these problems are then tested in laboratory experiments or sometimes demonstrations, often leading to conceptual conflict and extensive small group or class discussions. 5. Assessment of conceptions through interviews and diagnostic tests, students watch a video of clinical interviews and then prepare and carry out an interview protocol to assess mechanics or electricity conceptions. 6. Alternative conceptions in Electricity (mainly electric circuits). Activities start with a diagnostic test, followed by laboratory experiments and conceptual exercises. 7. Origin of alternative conceptions: constructivism, generative learning model as an example of a constructivist theory of learning, consequences for classroom learning. 8. Remediation techniques: changing the traditional teaching sequence of concepts, conceptual conflict, use of analogies, meta-learning. 9. Alternative conceptions regarding Heat, Temperature, and related concepts. Demonstration experiments that could be conducted when teaching about heat and temperature. 10. Student project: Construction of diagnostic tests and/or interview protocols by individual class participants. In the case of tests, items are screened, revised and pooled by topic. Items of the instructor's test bank are added. Students then conduct an individual research project using one of the tests and analyze their data using qualitative and quantitative item analysis for multiple choice and essay items. In the case of interviews, the students submit a sample tape in addition to a report. 11. Microteaching to exercise cognitive conflict demonstrations (three sessions). 12. Remediation models such as Osborne and Freyberg's (1985) and others. 13. Alternative conceptions in Optics. 14. Potential of laboratory and demonstrations in remediation of alternative conceptions. 15. Criticizing and revising worksheets for teaching concepts in the laboratory. 16. Writing conceptual exercises and worksheets for conceptually oriented laboratory sessions. 17. Alternative conceptions in Modern Physics. 18. Alternative conceptions in other branches of Physics (such as fluids etc.). 19. Examples of alternative conceptions in Mathematics which are relevant for Physics.