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The use of History and Philosophy of Science as a core for a socioconstructivist teaching approach of the concept of energy in Primary Education

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Title: The use of History and Philosophy of Science as a core for a socioconstructivist teaching approach of the concept of energy in Primary Education


1
The use of History and Philosophy of Science as a
core for a socioconstructivist teaching approach
of the concept of energy in Primary Education
  • Panagiotis Kokkotas, Katerina Rizaki, Nikos
    Valanides Pedagogical Department of Primary
    Education, National and Kapodistrian University
    of Athens, Greece
  • Department of Education, University of Cyprus,
    Cyprus

2
Our proposal a) Our study should be thought as
a socioconstructivist proposal for the teaching
the concept of energy in Primary Education b)
contains important and crucial aspects of History
and Philosophy of Natural Sciences. These aspects
are mainly related with the progress of the
concept of energy in Natural Sciences
3
  • Our objectives are
  • to introduce the concept of energy using the
    macroscopic framework of thermodynamics (the
    first and second thermodynamic laws)
  • to take into consideration learners alternative
    ideas or frameworks relating to energy
  • to take advantage of the causal character of
    energy as it is revealed from its
    historiographical analysis
  • to take advantage of the unifying character of
    energy as it is revealed from its
    historiographical analysis
  • to use energy chains as visual representations
    for the deep understanding of the concept of
    energy
  • to use visual grammar of Kress van Leeuwen
    (1996) to design energy chains and
  • to propose a new methodology for teaching the
    concept of energy in primary education.

4
  • Introducing the concept of energy within the
    macroscopic thermodynamic framework
  • We tend to support that the macroscopic
    thermodynamic framework constitutes the most
    appropriate framework for the instructional
    transformation of the concept of energy in
    relation to mechanics.
  • This approach is based on
  • the ideas of Prigogine and Stengers (1979) who
    consider thermodynamics as the most appropriate
    framework for explaining natural phenomena in
    comparison with mechanics
  • Arons argumentation (Arons,1999) supporting the
    idea that the theorem of work and kinetic energy
    has limited applications in the framework of
    mechanics and it does not represent a real energy
    equation aligned with thermodynamics
  • the views of Lehrman (1973) for a modern
    definition of energy compatible with or aligned
    to the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

5
These ideas stress that an instructional
transformation of the first and second law of
thermodynamics should be based on the basic
properties of energy (energy can be stored,
conserved, transformed, degraded, and
transported). These properties should
constitute the frame of reference for students
construction and comprehension of the concept of
energy during its instructional transformation
6
Learners alternative ideas or frameworks Any
socioconstructivist instructional intervention
attempts to invest on learners existing
alternative ideas or frameworks. The existing
literature supports that many of these
alternative conceptions relating to energy are
directly connected with the respective scientific
framework that they refer to (Watts,
1983Trumper, 1990 Nicholls Ogborn, 1993
Solomon, 1983 Gilbert Pope, 1982 Trumper,
1993 Bliss Ogborn, 1985). Learners express
reasoning patterns connected to energy that are
however intuitively aligned with the accepted
scientific framework either at mono-phenomenologic
al situations, such as electrical or thermal
phenomena or at multi-phenomenological situations
when they activate linear causal reasoning
(Koliopoulos Ravanis, 2001). Besides, other
studies examined students difficulties when they
use the concept of energy to interpret different
phenomena ((Driver Warrington (1985)Solomon
(1983)) while students qualitative reasoning is
defective even when they have adequate expertise
(Golding Osborne, 1994). Other studies
established students difficulties when they use
the concept of energy as a conserved quantity
((Duit,1981) (Driver Warrington, 1985)).
7
  • The causal nature of energy
  • The relation of energy to causality is revealed
    from its historiographical analysis as indicated
    in the scientific work of several founders and
    pioneers of the causal nature of energy (Mayer,
    cited by Cavena, 1993 Helmholtz cited by
    Bevilacqua, 1993).
  • In a socioconstructivist teaching approach, the
    causal nature of energy will be indicated using
    the following strategies
  • the concept of energy will be used as a basic
    concept for interpreting phenomena
  • the model of energy chains will be the basis
    for designing the program that incorporates
    causality (Lemeignan Weil-Barais, 1993
    Tiberghien Megalakaki, 1995) and
  • a deliberate attempt will target the
    identification of learners pre-causal reasoning
    relating to energy. In particular, learners
    ideas will be identified by asking them to
    interpret phenomena or systems where different
    actions are present that cause explicit results,
    so that learners can identify a cause.
  • The main objective is to identify learners
    pre-causal reasoning patterns and how to scaffold
    their development for interpreting phenomena
    using the concept of energy.

8
The unifying nature of energy The unifying
nature of energy is revealed through its
historiographical analysis. According to Kuhn
(1959), naturophilosophy can easily be considered
as an appropriate basis for formulating the
principle of conservation of energy. From our
perspective this can justify the philosophical
basis of it, because there was a constant search
for a unifying concept for interpreting all
natural phenomena. Closely related to philosophy
of the principle of the concept of energy was
also the tendency certain pioneers of the
principle had to identify an indestructible force
built in every natural phenomenon (Kuhn,
1959). These views provide adequate support for
the philosophical and unifying nature of the
concept of energy and give enough support to our
proposal.
9
The unifying nature of energy is indicated in our
proposal by using the same explanatory principle
in interpreting phenomena relating to electric or
heat phenomena and mechanics. The proposed
educational module can explain different
phenomena, such as the emission of light by an
electric bulb in a closed electric circuit, the
heating of an amount of water from a camping gas
or the sun heat, the movement of a body due to
another moving body, the movement of a body by a
coiled spring. Thus, different natural systems
can be dealt with in a unifying manner by
referring to energy as an entity that can be
stored in a system, transformed and transported
among different systems. We also put emphasis
on young students ability to recognize where
energy is stored, and an obvious transformer, or
receiver of energy, or a storage agent. Those are
selected from their familiar physical or
structured environment
10
Energy chains as a visual representation
contribute to better comprehend the abstract
concept of energy Appropriate visual
representations are considered as important
instructional tools that can extensively
facilitate the comprehension and internal
representation of abstract ideas, such as energy
(Buckley, 2000 Patrick et al., 2005 Kress van
Leeuwen, 1996). Ametller and Pinto (2002)
support that external visual representations are
useful tools for effectively teaching science,
especially for students with limited mathematical
background, such as those at the primary or lower
secondary school. Visual representations can
integrate multiple relations and are thus
preferable because they have certain advantages
when compared with only textual information
(Patrick et al., 2005). Lemeignan and Weil
Barais (1993) suggested, for example, the use of
symbolic visual representations, such as the
energy chains, for scaffolding students
thinking and helping them to adequately
comprehend ideas related to energy.
11
Energy chains The
design of energy chains as visual representations
should be necessarily aligned with the basic
rules of visual grammar (Kress van Leeuwen,
1996) and should also take into consideration
research evidence indicating students
difficulties in decoding information embedded in
visual representations (Pinto, 2002 Ametler
Pinto, 2002).
12
Introducing a stable methodology in our
proposal The instructional materials consist of
working sheets characterized by the same
structure. Students are initially invited to
design and conduct appropriate experiments in
order to investigate and later explain the
functioning of respective physical systems.
During this process, students attempt to
identify the functioning of these systems and to
prepare the hypothetical introduction of the
basic properties through which energy is
manifested and understood. This school knowledge
is then visually represented using the idea of
energy chains.
13
The methodology of the suggested proposal is very
similar to the methodology used by Helmoholtz in
the work Erhaltung (cited by Bevilanqua,
1993). Helmholtz not only wanted to express a
principle, but also to establish the framework
and rules following those principles which could
be formulated and used. This is what makes
Helmholtzs approach a major step in the
emergence of theoretical physics and shows that
his version of the principle was the application
of a sophisticated methodology. The use of
different physical laws ought to satisfy
experimental results and the principle of energy
conservation
14
Based on Helmoholtzs ideas, the properties of
energy introduced hypothetically and could
explain natural systems. First of all, students
try to recognize the functioning of physical
systems and to prepare the introduction of the
basic properties of energy. These properties are
the scientific knowledge that should constitute
the frame of reference for students construction
and comprehension of the concept of energy during
its instructional transformation (the first and
second thermodynamic laws). Students construct
the energy chains with the rules of visual
grammar. The energy chains as a visual message
differ from a verbal message because express
meanings, which could not be expressed verbally.
15
As an example we refer to the structure of a
worksheet which concerns the lighting of an
electric bulb which is part of an electric
circuit. At the beginning we present to the
students materials and ask them to choose the
most proper of them in order to construct an
electric circuit in which electric bulb will
light. When students succeed in their effort to
make the bulb shine, we ask them to explain how
it happened. In this stage we elicit alternative
ideas of our students. These ideas have to do
with conceptions closely related with the
phenomenological field of electricity and they
express pre energy causal reasoning when we
examine their views in the context of unifying of
electric-thermal and mechanical phenomena.
16
After that in the elaboration of the worksheet we
try to examine the role of objects of the
electric circuit. This process constitutes a
preparatory stage of the hypothetical
introduction of the concept of energy and in no
circumstances it experimentally proves the
concept of energy The concept of energy is
hypothetically introduced on the basis of its
properties Firstly the deposit is
introduced, Secondly the transportation and the
transformation. Next to this in the context of
the study of thermal phenomena we introduce the
properties of conservation and degradation.
17
In the constructed curriculum the elaboration of
the concept of energy is continued with the
energy chains. In this stage we link experimental
elaboration of phenomena with the scientific
information about energy and the design of energy
chains. Students start with the design of the
realistic representation which acts as a
facilitator of the design of energy chains.
The objects-systems referred as deposits,
receivers and transformers of energy. Deposits
are the bodies which give energy, receivers are
those bodies which take energy and also give, and
transformers are the bodies which transform
energy which receive with a square we represent
the deposits and the receivers of energy and with
a triangle the transformers. Each of these
schemes has a meaning which is socioculturally
shaped.
18
When students finished the design of simple forms
of energy chains, they add elements which concern
the ways of transfer of energy and the forms of
deposited energy. For example they could write
in the square chemical energy if the deposit is a
battery, as in an electric circuit. Indicatively,
we refer to some ways of transfer energy such as
electricity for the electric work, the motion as
mechanical work (which refers to mechanical
phenomena). The representation of the way of
transfer in an energy chain is symbolized with an
arrow on which we write the way of transfer.
19
  • We also try a semi-quantitative approach which
    can be achieved with the following ways
  • Implied conservation in the context of energy
    chains
  • With the help of an analogical model as well as
    of role play. The process of exchange is a good
    example
  • With discussions which have to do with the
    reduction of the quantity of energy. For example
    the increase of the temperature of a quantity of
    water which is heated with the burning of natural
    gas which reduces its quantity.

20
In addition we extend the use of the concept of
energy in the field of technology and the
environment. Thus, not only we introduce the
technological aspects of energy but we also
emphasize the distinction between technological
forms and theoretical forms of energy. We will
also emphasize the renewable and non renewable
sources of energy that are related to
technology. Obviously, the implications of
technological forms of energy on our global
environment can be easily revealed and
comprehended.
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