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Stella Vosniadou: Learning, cognition and the problem of conceptual change

In this presentation I will describe my attempts to develop an understanding of the process of conceptual change in the larger context of a cognitive theory of learning. I will start by describing the state of the art in learning and instruction research today. I will continue with a discussion of the similarities and differences in the various approaches to conceptual change (Piagetian, Vygotskian and situated cognition perspectives, the "standard theory" of conceptual change and fragmentation approaches). I will continue with a description of the cognitive/developmental approach to conceptual change to be outlined with examples from my research on the learning of science concepts. More specifically, it will be argued that at the time when systematic science instruction starts most children have already constructed an explanatory framework, a framework theory, for interpreting phenomena in the physical world. The term theory is used here to denote a relational, explanatory structure, and not an explicit, well-formed, and socially shared scientific theory. This initial framework theory, based on everyday experience and culture, is very different in its structure, in the phenomena it explains, and its individual concepts, from the scientific theories to which children are exposed in school. Learning science requires the fundamental restructurings in this initial framework theory, a restructuring that can be referred to as theory change. More specifically, we can define conceptual change as the outcome of a very complex cognitive as well as social process thereby which an initial framework theory is restructured. Studies of conceptual change have shown that this is a slow and gradual affair often accompanied by misconceptions, inert knowledge, internal inconsistencies, and lack of critical thinking. The implications of this approach for instruction will be outlined.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 101. Number 4. 435-448. (2001)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Stella Vosniadou, University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, GR15771 Athens, Greece.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia