Teaching the Crosscutting Concept of Emergent Cause-and-Effect to Overcome Misconceptions

Project: Research project

Project Details


Teaching the Crosscutting Concept of Emergent Cause-and-Effect to Overcome Misconceptions Teaching the Crosscutting Concept of Emergent Cause-and-Effect to Overcome Misconceptions Purpose. This project addresses the problem of persistent misconceptions that students manifest in explaining cause-effect relations of many science phenomena. Based on the P.I.s theoretical analyses of the nature of correct science conceptions and the nature of students misconceptions, we made the assumption that the common underlying structure or schema for many misconceived science concepts is the idea of emergence, whereas the underlying schema for students misconceptions is linearity or sequentialness. While conventional approaches focus on improving ways to teach each misconceived concepts, our novel approach teaches the crosscutting schema of emergence to see if learning it can facilitate students to transfer and improve their understanding of specific science processes across various science domains with reduced misconceptions. To test our assumption that emergence is the underlying structure of many science concepts, we will develop a stand-alone Process Module to teach the emergence schema to students directly, by contrasting everyday emergent and sequential processes (e.g. ants foraging in a line vs. a pack of wolves hunting). In order to test whether the stand-alone Process Module is sufficient to teach students about emergence, we will also develop two training concept Science Modules for two emergent science processes (diffusion and natural selection), instantiate them with the emergence schema by directly pointing out and explaining their emergent features and attributes. In a pre-pilot lab study, we will first compare the effectiveness of the Process Module alone, the two instantiated Science Modules alone, or a combination of both, in terms of mediating students learning of three other (transfer) emergent science processes, as well as being able to generate correct causal explanations. The most effective Module(s) will be used as our intervention in the Pilot Study. Setting and Sample. Our pilot study will be conducted in the Mesa High School classrooms, in Mesa, Arizona. Mesa High School is a large urban school with 3619 students, 58% with free or reduced lunch. The students are diverse: 58% Hispanic, 33% White, 4% African American, 2% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2% Native American. Intervention and Control Condition. The Module(s) with the best transfer learning outcomes from the pre-pilot iteration study will be selected as the intervention in the Pilot Study. The Intervention classes will receive either the Process Module, the two Science Modules, or both, whereas the Control classes will be taught using their standard curriculum materials. Both the Intervention and the Control groups will take the same pretests and posttests, and learn the identical transfer materials on three transfer concepts. Research Design, Key Measures and Data Analytic Strategy. We will use a quasi- experimental design comparing Intervention classrooms with Control classrooms. Key measures include researcher-developed pre- and posttests of the Process Module along with embedded prompt questions that will be coded qualitatively, as well as validated concept inventory and science standards sample questions. Multilevel Structural Equation Models will be used to account for our repeated measures and the hierarchical nature of the data. Ultimately, we will test whether teaching a general schema about emergence will help students better learn and understand other emergent science concepts, with reduced misconceptions.
Effective start/end date8/16/158/8/21


  • US Department of Education (DOEd): $1,456,431.00


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