Learning in Earth and space science: a review of conceptual change instructional approaches

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Articles and Special Issues
Mills, R., Tomas, L., & Lewthwaite, B. (2016). Learning in Earth and space science: a review of conceptual change instructional approaches. International Journal of Science Education, 38(5), 767-790. DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2016.1154227
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In response to calls for research into effective instruction in the Earth and space sciences, and to identify directions for future research, this systematic review of the literature explores research into instructional approaches designed to facilitate conceptual change. In total, 52 studies were identified and analyzed. Analysis focused on the general characteristics of the research, the conceptual change instructional approaches that were used, and the methods employed to evaluate the effectiveness of these approaches. The findings of this review support four assertions about the existing research: (1) astronomical phenomena have received greater attention than geological phenomena; (2) most studies have viewed conceptual change from a cognitive perspective only; (3) data about conceptual change were generated pre- and post- intervention only; and (4) the interventions reviewed presented limited opportunities to involve students in the construction and manipulation of multiple representations of the phenomenon being investigated. Based upon these assertions, the authors recommend that new research in the Earth and space science disciplines challenges traditional notions of conceptual change by exploring the role of affective variables on learning, focuses on the learning of geological phenomena through the construction of multiple representations, and employs qualitative data collection throughout the implementation of an instructional approach.


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