The development of student conceptions of the Earth-Sun relationship in an inquiry-based curriculum

Christina Salierno*, Daniel Edelson, Bruce Sherin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The study of conceptual change has long been of interest to cognitive science researchers and has tangible applications in education and curriculum design. Many theorists agree that learners must be confronted with their misconceptions before conceptual change can occur. This case study is an in-depth investigation of three fifth-grade students throughout their participation in a curriculum on Earth surface temperature. Data were collected via individual interviews and classroom observations and interactions, and were analyzed by comparing the students' thinking at various points before, during and after the unit. Throughout the study, the students exhibited misconceptions identified in current literature as well as novel misconceptions. The study also demonstrates that, although the curriculum was found to be partially effective, the students retained some misconceptions with which they began the study. In these cases, it seems that conceptual understanding is more fragmentary than theory-like, and that the depth of one's prior knowledge affects how readily new knowledge is constructed. The paper includes a discussion of student conceptions and potential implications for the design of the curriculum unit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-431
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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