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Three-tier diagnostic instrument for investigating alternative conceptions
Alternative conceptions
Three-tier diagnostic tests
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Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Education Research Association Conference 2008, Singapore, 26-28 November 2008
This paper reports on the findings of a study which aimed to develop and apply a three-tier diagnostic instrument, called the Wave Diagnostic Instrument (WADI), to investigate the alternative conceptions (ACs) held by upper secondary students in Singapore in relation to the nature and propagation of some common wave phenomena (e.g., sound and light). The results obtained indicate that the students have considerable difficulties in understanding the principles related to these topics. The students were also found to be generally confident in the correctness of their responses, although their confidence levels varied across test items. Some strong alternative conceptions were found, which include the notions that the speed of sound increases with the density of the medium, and that sound cannot be refracted and propagate without
air. It was found that a three-tier test is useful not only in identifying ACs, but also in knowing the strengths of ACs identified. They can be used to segregate mistakes due to lack of knowledge and guessing from mistakes that arise from flawed understanding of concepts.
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