Student conceptions in science

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This study sought to identify the conceptions held by Caribbean secondary school students in selected areas of science, with the emphasis on ideas that differed from orthodox science. Data were collected from a sample of 874 students (422 -Barbados; 452 - Dominica) at three age levels (Forms 1, 3, and 5), and 10 teachers (6 - Barbados; 4 - Dominica) from 11 schools (6 - Barbados; 5 Dominica), using interviews and a survey questionnaire for the conception study, an observation schedule for study of classroom climate, and a simple pre-test, post-test design for analysis of learning outcomes. Divergent conceptions were found in all topics, most of them persisting to Form 5 level. Classroom climates were predominantly convergent, concerned with imparting "correct" ideas. Considering the level of divergent conceptions found, it did not appear the convergent teaching methods were generally highly effective, even for convergent purposes. Methods that encouraged divergence often did not produce lasting concept change either, but in two topics significant post-test gains were achieved, and the incidence of "correct" ideas was higher than obtained in the survey results. These methods also appeared to generate greater student self-reliance and critical thinking. The critical elements of strategy appeared to be careful diagnosis of student ideas, devising strategies appropriate to particular ideas, and extensive application of the idea to be learned

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