UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Children’s beliefs about free-fall motion Kuhn, Kenneth C.


Students' beliefs about free-fall motion were explored using structured interviews. The sample of 24 students was composed of 6 students (3 boys, 3 girls) selected from grades 6, 8, 10 and 11 respectively. Three sets of tasks involving one actual experiment and a number of simulated thought problems were used to investigate (a) the student's beliefs about the motion of a single object, (b) the relevance of the variables of height difference, initial velocity difference, frame of reference difference and weight difference for two objects and (c) the combined action of these factors when more than one was present. It was found that the interview methodology and tasks used were effective for collecting the data required in an exploratory study of this type. It was possible to categorize the mode of action of each variable in terms of: (a) not operating, (b) as operating in a short impulse only, (c) as operating but slowly dissipating, or (d) as operating with a continuous action. Examples of most response categories occurred at all levels but a number of possible developmental trends by grade were evident. Also there was a possible indication of the resistance of certain intuitive beliefs to standard kinematics instruction for the grade 11 physics group. The results of this study could be useful to the classroom teacher as well as to the designer of a science curriculum. It suggests that students are able to explore some problems of motion beginning at the grade 6 level; that they should be allowed to explore the relevance of related variables; and that they should be encouraged to express and explore their own beliefs which they bring to the classroom about motion.

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