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Fundamental thermal concepts: An evaluation of Year 11 students’ conceptual understanding in everyday contexts
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Paper presented at the International Science Education Conference, Singapore, 24-26 November 2009
This research was conducted to investigate students' understanding of fundamental thermal concepts in everyday contexts. The 19 multiple-choice items in the questionnaire used in this study required written justifications for students' choice of responses. The items involving fundamental thermal concepts about heat, temperature, heat transfer and conduction were based on a previously developed questionnaire and from students' alternative conceptions derived from the research literature. The items which were entirely based on everyday contexts with scientific terminology avoided were administered to 80 Year 11 Singapore students. Four or five students from each class were interviewed in order to obtain additional information about their conceptual understanding and to probe the reasons they gave. Analysis of students' responses revealed several alternative conceptions of thermal concepts. Also, even though they held several acceptable scientific conceptions, many students had difficulties in applying thermal concepts in everyday contexts. The findings imply that classroom teaching needs to provide opportunities for students to make connections between scientific concepts and everyday contexts and to develop teaching strategies to help students better understand the related science concepts.
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