differ for students from different groups, including gender, race/ethnicity, academic ability, urban vs. rural, and majors versus nonmajors.
Perhaps even more importantly, with the exception of physics, very little research at the undergraduate level provides evidence of conceptual change over time as a result of instruction or other learning experiences. Many researchers provide suggestions for instruction, but fewer provide evidence about the efficacy of these suggestions (e.g., Tanner and Allen, 2005). Although physics education research has identified several pedagogical techniques that reliably move students toward scientifically normative conceptions, additional research is needed to understand whether these strategies work in other disciplines. Studies on these strategies in physics have been informed by cognitive science, and future DBER in other disciplines should be as well. For example, recent cognitive science research (Vosniadou, Vamvakoussi, and Skopeliti, 2008) has helped to replace Posner’s (1982) classical approach to conceptual change with more nuanced, and competing, perspectives. These newer perspectives emphasize the continuity of knowledge that can be expected over the course of learning and thus the possibility of identifying elements of novices’ prior knowledge that can contribute to the construction of more expert knowledge structures.
Research on effective methods for promoting conceptual change is particularly important because evidence exists for the persistence of incorrect ideas, beliefs, and explanations even after years of studying science and engineering. However, the length of many studies on this topic is often just one semester. Longitudinal studies of curriculum and pedagogy experiments designed to help students move toward normative scientific and engineering explanations are needed to more fully understand when and why incorrect ideas persist or reemerge. When applicable, these studies also should take into account the relationship between students’ personal belief systems and conceptual change. Research suggests that although students may be able to effectively apply knowledge that is inconsistent with their personal beliefs (such as answering questions about evolution correctly while not accepting evolution as valid) (Blackwell, Powell, and Dukes, 2003; Champagne, Gunstone, and Klopfer, 1985; Sinatra et al., 2003), their awareness of their beliefs and willingness to question those beliefs affect their receptivity to conceptual change (Pintrich, 1999).
Another important question for further DBER is how specific incorrect ideas originate, as a way of identifying effective means of moving students toward more normative understanding. Future DBER in this area might be informed by the growing body of research in cognitive science that focuses on the nature of students’ initial, incorrect conceptions of scientific concepts and phenomena (see Vosniadou, 2008b, for a thorough review of this literature). Progress on this set of questions would benefit from collaboration between DBER scholars and K-12 science education researchers, especially