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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Children's perceptions of gravity and motion across three tasks : a case study of six grade seven students Paras, Stephen Gerald


The purpose of the study was to examine children's intuitive knowledge in the field of physical science, eliciting their theories of gravity and motion. Six grade seven children were interviewed across three tasks using a 'demonstration-interview' technique. The three tasks involved the motion of balls of different mass rolling down an inclined plane, falling freely in air, and falling in a water-filled tube. In each task, children were asked to predict and explain what would happen when one ball is 'let go', and when two balls of equal size but different mass were 'let go'. They were allowed to observe the phenomenon, and explain what they observed. Also, each child was asked to predict and explain what would happen when the experiment is done in a hypothetical situation on the moon, and in a space craft in outer space. The results of the study confirmed the commonly held ideas children maintain of gravity and motion, and yet illuminated some new connections between gravity and other factors. Having conducted the interviews across three tasks, a rich amount of information was revealed, and a variety of possible structures of children's conceptual frameworks of gravity and motion was deduced. The study revealed that children's prior knowledge has an impact on the acquisition of science concepts as taught through formal schooling. Their ideas persist in spite of the classroom schooling they receive. Therefore it is often necessary to restructure this prior knowledge before new knowledge can be properly incorporated into their conceptual frameworks. The study suggests that educators, as well as curriculum writers, need to re-examine the instructional methods and the role of inquiry in science education.

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