BOX 9.4 A Program for Diagnosing Preconceptions in Physics

A computer-based DIAGNOSER program has helped teachers increase student achievement in high school physics (Hunt and Minstrell, 1994). The program assesses students’ beliefs (preconceptions) about various physical phenomena— beliefs that often fit their everyday experiences but are not consistent with physicists’ views of the world (see Chapters 2, 3, 6, and 7). Given particular beliefs, sets of activities are recommended that help students reinterpret phenomena from a physicist’s perspective. Teachers incorporate information from the diagnoser to guide how they teach. Data from experimental and comparison classrooms on students’ understanding of important concepts in physics show strong superiority for those in the experimental groups; see the graph below.

FIGURE 9.1 Mercer Island versus comparable school mechanics vinal and MAT math scores. SOURCE: Hunt and Minstrell (1994).



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