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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Student observations and explanations of a physical phenomenon : the Cartesian Diver Adler, J. Douglas


This study explored student observations and explanations of the Cartesian Diver. The study was conducted in a Grade 6/7 class in the lower mainland of Vancouver it. chronicled and categorized the developing understanding of three pairs of students. Each dyad participated in four events. Each event presented a unique variation of the Cartesian Diver. The first and third event involved a working Cartesian Diver, while events two and four required the students to construct a Cartesian Diver. Throughout the events, the researcher videotaped each pair's manipulations, observations and explanations. The data was analyzed using two established frameworks (Gunstone, 1998; Frazier, 1995). Students were able to construct a working Cartesian Diver and offer many explanations for its functioning. Student explanations of the Cartesian Diver were constructed from the data. The number of explanations increased as the students became familiar with the equipment and the variables which determine the behaviour of the Cartesian Diver. While many of the explanations were scientific, the students could only explain what they saw; student theories were context driven. None of the students was able to formulate a comprehensive theory to explain the Cartesian Diver.

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