New learning is intertwined with what already exist in learners’ cognitive structure.  Learners are more likely to construct an interpretation that agrees with their notions of reality and or misconceptions.    The objective of the present study is to shed some light on the misconceptions of seventh-grade students more specifically on the concepts related to force, motion, structure of matter, properties of matter and light. A 10-item two-tier multiple-choice test was developed and administered to 404 grade seven students from twelve schools.  The results indicated that seventh grade students among several misconceptions hold that a rolling ball will continue to roll only if a force is applied on it continuously.  To teach children successfully, teacher requires an understanding of how children think and construct scientific knowledge.  The role of teacher as a diagnostician is important in this context. Recent research has revealed that students’ misconceptions interfere with, rather than enhance learning

Pupils have naïve conceptions (descriptive and explanatory systems) about scientific phenomena that develop before they experience formal study of science.  Naïve conceptions that students bring with them to the classroom are persistent.  Naïve theories and the distortions they engender in students’ comprehension are among the principal causes of students’ failure to achieve understanding in science (Champagne, Gunstone & Klopfer, 1983).

The naïve propositions such as – ‘heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones’ – is common among learners.  This is generalized from their experience that stones fall faster than leaves.  However, the ‘contaminated’ form as – ‘ heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones because gravity pulls harder on heavier objects’ –  is the result of information learned in science  that is inappropriately linked to an existing naïve conception (Champagne, Gunstone & Klopfer, 1983).  Thus, a learner selectively adds (assimilates or/and accommodates to use the Piagetian terms) those aspects of formal science to his/her naïve conceptions.  However, naïve conception is different from prior knowledge which is explained in the following section.

Prior knowledge may be defined as a combination of knowledge and skills accumulated from previous experiences (Hewson, 1986).  However, there is an abundance of terminology used by researchers to refer to what seems to be the same construct – prior knowledge. These include background knowledge, pre-existing knowledge, previous knowledge and existing knowledge.  In this paper all these terms are used to mean prior knowledge.  The term here denotes that the knowledge is based on some experience and not notions of reality.  Prior knowledge exists not only at the level of “concepts,” but also at the levels of perception, focus of attention, procedural skills and modes of reasoning.

Prior knowledge is like a conceptual frame to which new knowledge is incorporated.  Prior knowledge may facilitate or obstruct/interact with new learning. New knowledge does not replace prior knowledge; rather new knowledge re-uses prior knowledge. Re-use is made possible by a process in which prior knowledge is refined, and placed in a more encompassing structure.  The Piagetian assimilation and accommodation are not discussed here for those who treat learning as a one-directional process.

gfr download