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European Journal of Science Education
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A conceptual framework for science education: The case study of force and movement
John K. Gilbert & Arden Zylbersztajn
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University of Surrey, Guildford, UK Published online: 25 Feb 2007.
To cite this article: John K. Gilbert & Arden Zylbersztajn (1985) A conceptual framework for science education: The case study of force and movement, European Journal of Science Education, 7:2, 107-120 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0140528850070201
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Steadily increasing research evidence. Gilbert and Arden Zylbersztajn*.are strongly held and resistant to traditional forms of teaching (see Driver and Easley 1978). what seems to be emerging from this work is a new interpretation of established research experience. CCSA. for a considerable number of pupils. . VOL. beliefs and meanings for words. Therefore. 1930) in which the clinical interview technique was employed for the investigation of children's interpretations of natural phenomena. but that the challenging process must be reviewed. Introduction The fact that children tend to develop their own conceptions about the nature of the physical world has been known for a long time. There are also indications that. from a humanistic perspective. EDUC.. in the form of expectations. 2. Universidade Federal do R N. J. * Current address: Departamento de Educacao. 107-120 A conceptual framework for science education: The case study of force and movement John K. some of these conceptions — which provide personal understanding of the world . 'children's science' and 'students' science'. University of Surrey. Only in recent years. 59000 Natal R. their integrity is coming to be granted and respected. NO. indicates that these conceptions. accumulated from different sources. sci. The corollary is not that these alternative conceptions should remain unchallenged. which make sense from an individual's point of view. 7. Rather than representing the discovery of a new phenomenon. 1985. ' curricular science'. Instead of being regarded simplistically as primitive forms of understanding. A case study based on concepts of force and movement is used to illuminate these perspectives. Guildford. cover a large range of science concepts (Gilbert and Watts 1983). Formal research on this topic can be traced back to earlier work of Piaget (1929. do research workers in the field of science education appear to have realized the full educational implications of this form of knowledge. Brazil.EUR. 'teachers' science'. that can be easily disposed of in the process of formal schooling. these alternative views of the world are now starting to be seen as personal explanations. and implications for the curricular presentation and classroom teaching of the ideas are discussed. UK Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 Science education is presented as the negotiation of knowledge between several different perspectives: those provided by 'scientists' science'.N. however..
such as 'misconceptions' or 'misunderstandings' are being replaced. and since a specific curriculum can be viewed. as a particular version of scientific knowledge. Viennot (1979) talked about 'spontaneous reasoning'. All signify pupils' world views which do not conform with the ones accepted officially by school science. Teachers. Gilbert et al. usually prepare their lessons by using curricular materials. Toulmin (1961). stresses the role played by 'world views' in the generation of scientific knowledge. have construed a view of the world to enable them to cope with situations. Changing this view is not as simple as giving pupils additional experiences or sense data. The connections between a constructivist approach. 'scientists' science' (see Gilbert et al. The shift towards a constructivist approach has also been supported by a growing awareness on the part of research workers in science education. and recent developments in science education research. pupils. This implies the acceptance of the fact that pupils do enter teaching-learning situations with already existing conceptions which influence the way in which they incorporate into their cognitive structures what they are expected to learn. The work of Hanson (1958). Pupils. Kuhn (1962). to undergo. Holton (1973) and Feyerabend (1975) and others. With this element included. References implying a negative connotation. according to which the role of individuals in the construction of their personal knowledge should be given special consideration. . Driver and Easley (1978) introduced the expression 'alternative frameworks'. . expectations and meanings for words) which do not match those of their scientific counterparts. come to science lessons with some ideas on beliefs already formulated. as presented to a group of pupils. of the changing perspectives adopted by the philosophy of science in the last quarter of a century. assuming scientific knowledge to be directly derived from sense experiences. if you like. Naive realism. the expression 'curricular science' can be suggested to represent this version. like scientists. a more complete picture of the transformations and interactions between different forms of . postulating a one-to-one relationship between theory and reality.108 J. ZYLBERSZTAJN Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 This change of perspective is clearly reflected at the semantic level. like scientists. has been discarded as an account of the nature of scientific knowledge. A conceptual framework The expression 'children's science' was suggested in order to describe those views of the world (composed by beliefs. 1982). however. It also involves helping them to reconstruct their theories or beliefs. K. These beliefs affect the observations they make and the inferences they draw from them. in itself. In the same paper the expression 'teachers' science' was introduced to represent the teacher's viewpoints on ideas. were pointed out by Driver (1979): . (1982) suggested 'children's science'. modern views in philosophy of science. This new terminology can be interpreted as signalling a movement towards a constructivist approach to science education. GILBERT AND A. the paradigm shifts which have occurred in the history of science.
g. in the context of secondary school science. what is conveyed by them to their pupils — 'teachers' science' (ST) . concerned with a particular group of pupils. in which 'children's science' appears as an element of 'students' science'. it can still be argued that the framework described represents major transformations of knowledge occurring in the context of secondary school science education. the result of which is named 'students' science' (SST). Those activities are conceptualized in the framework as the interaction between 'children's science' and 'teachers' science'. can be articulated as depicted in figure 1 (see Zylbersztajn 1983). but this is not a frequent outcome of secondary school science classes. The third stage of transformation takes place in science classes. In a first stage. The conceptual framework. when pupils perceive. Therefore.. . interpret and process what is presented to them. constructing their own personal meanings from the activities they are asked to perform. even considering these possibilities. The second stage of transformation occurs when a curriculum is implemented by a particular teacher. 'scientists' science' (Ss) is transformed into 'curricular science' (SCR). It seems reasonable to assume that teachers interpret the structure of a curriculum in the light of their own conceptual structures and their perception of the situations they are involved in. pupils in their turn may interact directly with the textbooks and other sources of information. in a particular school. as an integration of printed materials. It is in that process that their previous knowledge — 'children's science' (SCh) . Teachers. it provides a distinct way by means of S s \ curriculum planning w Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 I S C R \ lesson \ ^ j planning classroom ( S q T ) activities \ / V Figure 1. Science teachers naturally aim at achieving a close alignment between 'students' science' and 'curricular science'. The conceptual framework presented offers a simplified picture of a complex reality situation. As such. a textbook) or in their more refined versions (e.A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION 109 knowledge. AVA. in a process mediated by the action of curriculum planners and textbook writers. in a specific context. to a greater or lesser extent. Nevertheless. and laboratory equipment. for instance. may complement their lessons with information extracted from sources other than curricular materials. Science curricula. Gilbert et al.can be seen as a result of the interaction between 'teachers' science' and 'curricular science'. g. (1982) identified at least four other outcomes. either in their simplest forms (e. plus teacher's guides) are here conceived of as structures representing versions of scientific knowledge.appears to play an important role.
In the remainder of this paper a topic from secondary school science education is explored from the point of view provided by this conceptual framework. Nevertheless. of a review of research on alternative conceptions about the topic ('children's science'). therefore. second. because there were outstanding intermediate figures. by focusing on this topic from different perspectives. and the 'inertial view' as expressed in Newton's theory of motion. This is a rough generalization. the theme has repeatedly been explored from the point of view of 'children's science' and the difficulties associated with learning it have been identified in several studies. The majority of its inte- . The topic which will be explored can be summarized under the heading of 'force and movement'. the 'impetus theory' of the Middle Ages. like Galileo. whose conceptions represented the transition between the medieval impetus theory and the inertial conception of motion. ZYLBERSZTAJN Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 which science education at that level can be conceptualized. and of an analysis of some aspects related to the curricular presentation of the topic at secondary school physics level ('curricular science'). compatible with the recent trend taken by research in science education. first because representative workers within these different groups were not uniform in their interpretations and. from an inertial point of view. Our intention is to illustrate how. as will be seen. It is certainly not an exaggeration to state that 'force and movement' is considered as a 'paradigmatic case' by research workers concerned with alternative conceptions and their implications for learning. This conception considered a finite and completely full universe limited by a sphere of stars. we intend to show how a critical analysis of 'curricular science' can be influenced by a study of 'scientists' science' and 'children's science'. The Aristotelian View: Aristotle's ideas concerning motion were part of a broader perspective which can be described as the Aristotelian two-sphere universe (see Kuhn 1977). cannot be over-emphasized. GILBERT AND A. Force and movement: scientists' science As far as classical mechanics is considered. In particular. is basic to the comprehension of Newtonian mechanics. the division can be a useful device in helping to conceptualize major stages in the development of the concept of force. some educational implications can be highlighted. and is.110 J. since an understanding of the relation between force and movement. and for physics education in general. K. especially in its relation to movement. On the other hand. Its importance for secondary school physics. conceptions concerning the relationship between force and movement can be divided historically into three major groups: the 'Aristotelian view'. The following sections consist of an overview of the historical development of conceptions relating force and movement ('scientists' science'). It is a way that stresses the important role played by pupils' alternative conceptions.
The earth occupied this position because it was. that the mathematical expression presented conveys the meaning of Aristotle's statements. translated Aristotle's law of motion into a modern algebraic formulation as: where V stands for the velocity or speed of motion. There are two basic aspects of the Aristotelian physics of motion. All motions which were not natural were considered violent in the Aristotelian framework. According to the Aristotelian view. which was a fundamental feature of his finite and filled universe. In this case. resistance must be zero and the velocity would be infinite. The medievalist Ernest A. not because it is attracted by it. first. as expressed by the inclusion of the resistance of the medium in the denominator of the equation. The sublunary region was filled with the four Aristotelian elements: earth. Motion was considered differently with regard to the celestial and sublunary regions. In the former. It can be argued. itself. The implication is that. however. Aristotle himself never stated his law of motion in this concise mathematic form. that destiny was considered to be the centre of the universe. The sphere of stars formed the outer surface of that aggregate of shells. with the result that the very notion of a vacuum was absurd. that is. in its turn. circular and perpetual. which was eternal and changeless. composed of rocky and earthly materials. uniform. a stone falls naturally towards the earth. and the sphere containing the moon (the lowest planet) formed its inner surface. and Al for the resistance of the medium through which the body passes. the ether. but could only offer a complicated and rather clumsy . P for the inertive process giving the body movement. Natural motion was directed to the 'natural places' of objects. the impossibility of a void existing in the Aristotelian universe. aggregated in a set of nesting shells containing the planets. in a void. that must be stressed. Terrestrial or sublunary motion. the idea that force and velocity are directly associated: for a body to have a velocity a force must be being exerted. air and fire. and second. This theory of motion explained the movement of bodies lying on a surface quite well.A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION 111 Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 rior was supposed to be filled with a simple element. In the Aristotelian universe there was no place for a moving earth. water. was divided into natural and violent. but because the earth occupies the centre of the universe. That was the reason used by Aristotle to argue for the impossibility of a void. In the case of rocks and earthly materials. Matter and space were inseparably linked. which is impossible since the motion would be instantaneous. and the greater the force the greater the velocity. symbolized in the expression. At every point of this universe some sort of substance was present. Moody (see Wallace 1981). Rather. a force was needed to keep a body moving against its 'natural' inclination. and that restriction was incorporated in the Ptolemaic paradigm which dominated astronomy until the Copernican revolution. The earth rested in the centre of this universe. he discussed separately the changes of velocity due to changes in the force producing movement or in the resistance of the medium. motion was supposed to be perfect.
The most important early medieval critic of the antiperistasis explanation was John Philoponus who lived in the Sixth century (Wallace 1981). in order to disallow the possibility of infinite motion. for him. Projectile motion was considered as a case outside his general framework. which impetus acts in the direction toward which the mover levelled the moving body. probably because it might have created difficulties for this theory. unless resisted. however. rejecting the idea that a medium can both sustain and resist the motion of a projectile. the point was not very important (Kuhn 1977). A similar view was held by the Arab scientist Avempace (1106-1138). by the same amount it will impress in it a stronger impetus. GILBERT AND A. Following the scholastics method of analysis. Thus the movement of the stone continually becomes slower until the impetus is so diminished or corrupted that the gravity of the stone evens out over it and removes the stone down to its natural place. K. or other projectile. for motion in a void. after the contact between the object and the thrower ceased. no visible motion exerting a force on the projectile was present. is launched (Kuhn 1977): (The projector) impresses a certain impetus or motion force into the moving body. however. but. In this case. particular inadequacies were highlighted even by scholars pledging an allegiance to the general Aristotelian view of the world (see Kuhn 1977). as it was implied by Aristotle. But that impetus is continually decreased by the resisting air and by the gravity of the stone which inclines it in a direction contrary to that in which the impetus was naturally predisposed to move it. either up or down or laterally or circularly. in which arguments and counter-arguments were advanced in relation to specific aspects of Aristotle's views. Moody represents Avempace's theory of motion by the equation: V = P-M which allows. And by the amount the mover moves that moving body more swiftly. and. He also argued for the possibility of motion in a void. one of the leading members of this group asserted that when a stone. the focii for medieval commentary on his theory of motion. This view was to be found later in 'De Motu'. The Impetus Theory: These weaknesses constituted. He proposed that an impressed force or borrowed power was transmitted by the thrower to the projectile. at least hypothetically. that the impressed force was of a self-expending nature. It is by that impetus that the stone is moved after the projector ceases to move. He was aware of the weaknesses of this extremely artificial and ad-hoc solution.112 J . ZYLBERSZTAJN explanation for the motion of projectiles. The scholastic criticism of the Aristotelian theory of projectile motion culminated in the formulation of the Impetus theory in the Fourteenth century by scholars based at the University of Paris. Jean Buridan. assuming. (Kuhn 1977) Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 Buridan's impetus was not self-expending. and Aristotle amended the theory by conceiving the disturbed air as the source of a push. could make motion endure forever. He also presented a quantitative description by equating the quantity of impetus with the product of the body's speed . this was the antiperistasis theory. one of the earlier works of Galileo (Wallace 1981).
the Principle of Inertia. From this point of view. What cannot be denied is that the traditional image of Galileo as the father of the empirical-inductivist 'scientific method'. such as Koyre (1978) nearly half a century ago. Nicole Oresme. after pointing out that most . and more recently Feyerabend (1975) stressed the rationalist and anti-empiricist components of Galileo's approach to the study of nature. At the opposite end of the spectrum. and often in spite of them. continued his master's work and actually employed the concept of impetus in order to demonstrate the possibility (although not the necessity) of the earth having a diurnal rotation. Because of that he was. Most philosophers and historians of science today seem to accept that Galileo's theories were developed. not based. a propagandist for what had already been accomplished (Shapere 1974). terrestrial dynamics started to be used in cosmological arguments. and it can be doubted if a concensus will ever be reached on it. at best. the influential Nineteenth century German positivist philosopher. a movement in the direction of a unique physics to describe earthly and celestial movement. Other authors. The issue is very much an open one. one of Buridan's students. Pierre Duhem. which nowadays has in Drake (1970) its best known supporter. considered a nearly inertial solution to the problem of an arrow thrown vertically. has been reconsidered. was influenced by it (Kuhn 1977. and indeed the very existence of such a method. at the turn of the century. both in content and methodology (the former as result of the latter) with the pre-existent tradition. argued that practically all the ideas attributed to Galileo had already been discovered in the Fourteenth century by the impetus theorists. still today. and in a form equivalent to Newton's first law. By the end of the Fourteenth century 'Impetus dynamics' had replaced 'Aristotelian dynamics' and during the next two following centuries it was taught and used by medieval scientists. and were very similar to the ones used later by Galileo to define anti-Copernican 'proofs' of the immobility to the earth (Kuhn 1977). regarded Galileo as an empiricist. on raw observational results.A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION 113 Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 by its quantity of matter. With Buridan and Oresme. The range of Galileo readings is so great that it can be said that everybody has his own view of Galileo (Cohen and Wartofsky 1980). a controversial matter in modern philosophy and history of science (Shapere 1974). a concept similar to the concept of momentum in modern science (Kuhn 1977). As Koyre (1978) stated. Galileo formulated originally. most certainly. Galileo : The role played by Galileo in the development of dynamics is. who made a sharp break. thus establishing the equivalence between uniform rectilinear motion and rest. Galileo. Ernst Mach. Wallace 1981) and it was Galileo who was to provide the final and crucial link between the Impetus theory and Newtonian mechanics. Oresme's counter-arguments to Aristotle's and Ptolemy's theories.
another aspect disputed by scholars (e. This is. if extended over the earth's surface. that he [Galileo] had no confidence in observations which had not been unified theoretically. expressed in his early works like 'De Motu' (circa 1590). ZYLBERSZTAJN of the so-called Galileo experiments were in reality 'thought experiments': 'One could say. Galileo introduces the idea of conservation of motion by arguing that a ball moving in a horizontal plane will remain in a state of uniform motion unless resisted by external impediments. a body released from a certain height would fall nonperpendicularly from the point of release to the ground. he always made reference to motion in a plane resting on the earth's surface and not to motion in unconstrained space. but motion in itself. This motion of perpetually conserved motion in an idealized frictionless plane represented a sharp departure from the Fourteenth century theories. meant that in the case of uniform motion need not be explained. as states which tend to be conserved. and only what deviated from these ideals required an explanation (Toulmin 1961).one of his classical 'thought experiments' in the 'Dialogue'. The ontological equivalence between uniform motion and rest. he never stated a 'Principle of Inertia' as expressed in Newton's First Law. Moreover. Dijksterhuis 1961). an idea very close to the modern concept of momentum. however. K. Using Toulmin's terminology. being a state which is conserved.' With regard to the role played by Galileo in the formulation of the Principle of Inertia. GILBERT AND A. breaking therefore with the old Aristotelian distinction: motion became a state in itself. by applying to Galileo the beliefs of a modern physicist. This led Koyre (1978) to believe that Galileo's inertia was really circular inertia since. Whilst some fully endorse Koyre's interpretation (Dijksterhuis 1969. this plane would become a circular surface.g. Although inertial ideas are important in Galileo's work.114 J . This evaluation was influenced by Galileo's adherence to Copernicism and by his attempts to solve the physical problems posed by the new cosmology (Feyerabend 1975. Cohen 1977). Shapere 1974). Galileo's solution to this problem postulated an independence between the vertical and horizontal motions of the body and a conservation of the horizontal impetus. Furthermore. On the other hand. to a nearly Newtonian perspective as expressed in his more mature 'Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems' published in 1632. not only rest. which were presented by the defenders of an earth-centred universe. his 'impetus' evolved from the almost-Parisian view. Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 . became an 'ideal of natural order'. but now also uniform motion. It was no longer the 'emotive force' causing the object to move. impetus had acquired a new meaning for Galileo (Koyre 1978). At this stage. an intermediate view between those held by Mach and Duhem seems to be more sensible. The main purpose of the 'Dialogue' was to defuse arguments against the idea of a moving earth. First of all Galileo presented it as a case of motion that was neither violent nor natural. Koyre 1978). In . however. In one hand there is strong evidence that Galileo was influenced by 'Impetus physics' (Kuhn 1977. One of the most serious arguments was that in a moving earth. uniform motion was located at the same ontological level as rest (Koyre 1978). more traditional ones argue against it (Drake 1970).
and the other three asking about forces on a cannon ball in flight from muzzle to ground. he derived the Law of Universal Gravitation. a questionnaire in a multiple-choice-with-explanation format was used in order to assess the popularity of some alternative conceptions related to the concept of force. In one study reported by Watts and Zylbersztajn (1981). however. tend to use pre-Galilian ideas when analysing movement. He was. They saw the stone as having a force upward away from the person's hand as the stone moved upwards. without making changes in its basic principles. or of uniform motion in a right line. for instance. The developments which took place during these two centuries. The far-reaching effects of the Newtonian synthesis helped his theory to overcome the initial reactions of the Cartesians (who would not accept the action-through-distance implied by the law of gravitation) and to establish it as the undisputed research paradigm in mechanics during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries. Force and movement: Children's science The area of mechanics has certainly been the one in which the majority of studies on alternative conceptions have concentrated. unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it' (Dijksterhuis 1961). This axiom is followed by his second law of motion stating the proportionality between the 'change of motion' and the 'motive force impressed'. One hundred and twenty-five pupils at the end of the third year of UK secondary school (age 14 years) from four comprehensive schools participated in the study. the development of analytical mechanics. the final step towards a fully inertial perspective in mechanics was provided by Newton. Inside this area. Drake 1970). and by his axiom stating the equality between action and reaction. The responses to these questions indicated that about 85% of the pupils associated force and motion. able to develop a quantitative cosmology that proved to be extremely successful. therefore. and even some university students. .A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION 115 Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 The Newtonian Synthesis: Although the first clear statement of the 'Principle of Inertia' was made by Descartes (Kuhn 1977. presented as axioms at the beginning of the 'Principia' states that: 'Every body continues in its state of rest. the cannon ball was seen to have a force away from the cannon. In contrast to his forerunners. only reflect the articulation of the paradigm in the Kuhnian sense (Kuhn 1962). Newton started his work by almost fully accepting a Copernican universe. The first of his famous three laws of motion. the relationship between force and movement has been thoroughly explored and there is convincing evidence to support the statement that school children. Six of the 12 questions presented aimed at surveying the association between force and movement. By considering his three axioms on motion with the laws of planetary motion developed by Kepler. moving it through the air. the first three asking about forces on a stone thrown vertically upwards in the air.
showed how to apply a linear relation between force and velocity when answering a paper and pencil test focussed on their predictions about the motion of bodies. K. the objects will continue to move in a circular curved path. were similar to the ones presented by the third-year pupils who participated in one of the Watts Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 . or when free of the constraint (McCloskey et al. this conception was more likely to emerge in situations when intuitive reasoning was required. GILBERT AND A. and the object's projectory gradually becomes straight. those beliefs are similar to some versions of the medieval Impetus theory. students tended to associate force with acceleration (as they have supposedly been taught) when presented with an equation of motion and asked to calculate the force. when students had to compare qualitatively the intensity of the force acting on a body attached to a spring at the same position. held the view that an object forced to travel in a curved path acquires a 'force' or a 'momentum' that causes it to continue in curvilinear motion for sometime after emerging from the tube. a horizontal plane. In 90% of the cases. According to the authors. which took a diagnostic test at the beginning of their first semester (most of them had high school physics although not college physics). Viennot (1979) reported that several hundred students (mainly French. On the other hand. Less than a third of the students represented the resultant force as being radially inward. when solving the coin problem. and about half of each group represented the resultant force in the forward direction. but with different speeds. who drew curved pathways. for instance. This 'force' or 'momentum' eventually dissipates. Replications of the work of Watts and Zylbersztajn (1981) with Portuguese university students showed results similar to the original. ZYLBERSZTAJN There is evidence showing that the persuasiveness of this belief is quite general. gave incorrect answers when asked to draw arrows showing the forces on a coin moving upwards. Clement (1982) presents similar claims based on data obtained from written tests and video-taped problem-solving interviews. It is interesting to note that the explanations advanced by the university students of Clement's study. showing an intuitive association between force and direction of movement despite years of formal instruction in physics. requiring the students to represent the forces acting on it. 1980). Not surprisingly. American university students were asked to draw the path which objects would take when constrained by a tube to follow a curvilinear path. Over half of them. but also British and Belgian) from the last year of secondary school to the third year of university. including many who had taken physics courses. the error involved the drawing of a force-arrow pointing upwards. at least initially. advanced answers showing a belief that. Interviews conducted after the experiment showed that most of the subjects.116 J . study (Thomaz 1983). Eighty-eight per cent of a group of 34 engineering students. Clement suggested that most students presented conceptions which were very similar to those in the Impetus theory. In another study. usually to its self-expending version. Warren (1971) presented to 178 (in 1968) and 193 (in 1970) science and engineering British university entrants a single problem involving uniform circular motion of a vehicle.
the effect of a force is to change the speed or the direction of movement. for instance. they tend to stop. This builds on the intuitive association between force and muscular effort which is usually reinforced during the first years of secondary school. however. a body in movement will stop if there is not an apparent net force acting upon it. friction included. a logic related to the role played by frictional forces. There is also evidence to suggest that. are more than evident. the conceptions are closer to the medieval impetus theories than to the older Aristotelian conceptions. once aware of the effect of frictional forces. The implicit assumption in this logic of explanation is that. Another 'common-sense' based proposition. the 'common-sense' is misleading. However. research on alternative conceptions about force and movement discussed in the previous section suggests that this is not the case. pupils will easily accept an inertial view of motion. which informs Nuffield O-level physics. 4. at least when projectile motion (vertical or composite) is considered. Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 Force and movement: Curricular science Curricular presentations of this topic vary widely. 2.A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION 117 and Zylbersztajn (1981) studies. but because there are frictional forces opposing its movement. The differences between an enquiry-oriented spiral approach. A 'common-sense' based proposition. a body in motion will continue to move in the absence of acting forces. and 6. 3. A force is a 'pull' or a 'push'. this happens not because these met any forces acting on the body. bodies in movement are usually acted on by frictional forces. Nevertheless. Therefore: 5. a body at rest will continue at rest if there is not a force acting upon it. when solving the equivalent stone problems. Therefore. and the traditional content-oriented transmission approach of more conventional textbooks. This logic of presentation can be summarized in the following sequence: 1. a common logic can be identified in the introduction of the inertial view of motion. in this case. but also in certain cases do persist even after years of formal exposure to physics teaching. For a long time teachers and textbooks have started the teaching of Newton's laws by stressing the fact that Galileo arrived at the Principle of . The studies presented above support the view that pre-Galilean ideas about force and movement are not only prevalent among school children.
Aristotelians (contrary to what most curricular presentations suggest) and impetus theorists were quite aware of the existence of friction. Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 . When references to previous ideas are made. only changes in movement need an explanation. who are intuitive impetus theorists. therefore. as summarized above. the adoption of the inertial view of motion involves a change in the ontology of motion. It is not unreasonable to suppose that a similar accommodation may occur in the_case of school pupils and even older students. Beyond a simple acknowledgement of the resistance effect of frictional forces. than induced from experimental results. In this view. and the simple invention to it does not necessarily lead to a change of perspective. Pucks. and therefore do not need to be explained. Aristotle is singled out in order to stress Galileo's achievements. A closer look at the historical development of scientific views on the relation between force and movement indicates that the transition to an inertial view of force included far more than the recognition of the effect of frictional forces. and hence the introduction of the modern concept of force. Impetus Theory is not mentioned at all. and parallel developments in astronomy. The logic of presentation challenged here can be seen as reflecting the fact that 'curricular science' is still dominated by an empirical-inductivist view on the nature of scientific knowledge (Cawthron and Rowell 1978). Longford and Zollman (1982). ZYLBERSZTAJN Inertia by (dis)regarding the effects of frictional forces. For most children. and by his commitment to a Copernican universe. This is despite the likelihood that Galileo's views on motion were more likely influenced by medieval dynamics. for instance.118 J . Uniform motion is given the same ontological status as rest: both are considered as states tending to be conserved. they were able to accommodate. but because it places uniform motion and rest on the same ontological level. air-tracks and air-tables are familiar to most school labs. The main problem in the logic underlying the introduction of the inertial view of motion. is that it puts 'the cart before the horse': an explanation of why moving bodies tend to come to rest based on friction only fully makes sense within an already-present inertial framework. Galileo is presented as a scientist supported by hard empirical data. with some textbooks conveying the impression that the study of motion started with him. and proper consideration is not given to the connections between the development of the inertial view of motion. comment on the strength and persistence of the motion that a force must continue to act on an object if it is to continue in motion even under (simulated) friction-free conditions. K. that inertial dynamics is anti-intuitive not because people are not aware of friction. at least from a qualitative point of view. the existence of friction with the need of a force to keep a body in movement. the problem of friction may not really be a problem. Nevertheless. The superseded image of Galileo as the prototype of an empiricalinductivist scientist is prevalent in curricular presentations. as already shown in the section on 'scientists' science'. While Aristotle is presented as a philosopher whose theories were based on metaphysical speculation. GILBERT AND A. We would argue. but even so non-inertial 'children's science' seems to persist.
but related. points. Vol. a serious omission that curricular presentations do not usually mention the Impetus theory of motion developed during the Middle Ages. By stressing such similarities. It could also help pupils to see the value of their constructions. References E. University of Surrey.A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION 119 Conclusion Our critique of the curricular presentation of some aspects of the relation between force and movement has focused on two different. . COHEN. for instance. R. J. Suppe (University of Illinois Press. as happens with the topic considered in this paper. CLEMENT. History and the philosophy for science. we suggested that a superseded view on the nature of scientific knowledge supports. edited by F. American Journal of Physics. Studies in Science Education. Second. No. but also in helping the teaching of some concepts. nor by research on 'children's science'. this presentation. We are extremely grateful to Maureen Pope and Michael Watts for the massive intellectual support which they have provided for us. it could help them to reconstrue their own views. Downloaded by [USP University of Sao Paulo] at 21:57 19 July 2013 Acknowledgement The ideas expressed in this paper were developed while the first author was a research student at the Institute of Educational Development. 66-71. It is. Here we would like to indicate that a more careful consideration of the history and the philosophy of science could not only be instrumental in conveying a more updated view on the nature of scientific knowledge. Students' preconceptions in introductory mechanics. 1978. 50. Vol. and is conveyed by. historically. Brazil. and ROWELL. I. 'curricular science' could persuade teachers to pay more attention to their pupils' alternative conceptions. for granting him an extended study leave. by showing how similar ones changed in the course of history. 5. J. pp. pp. 31-59. constituted 'scientists' science'. First. 1982. Gilbert and Watts 1983). A. 1977. This last point is particularly true when parallels can be drawn between 'children's science' and conceptions which have. which is similar to a common pattern in 'children's science'. B. A number of studies had recently addressed the issue of how 'children's science' should be dealt with in the classroom context if a constructivist standpoint is to be assured (Driver and Erickson 1983. we have pointed out that the logic of presentation is based on assumptions which are warranted neither by the history of science. 1. We wish to express our thanks to the British Council for awarding him a Technical Co-operation Training Fellowship and to the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte. and at the same time. CAWTHRON. Urbana). Epistemology and science education. The Structure of Scientific Theories.
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