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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Conceptual Change in a Microcosm: Comparative Learning Analysis of a Learning Event

Published Web Location Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

© 2017 S. Karger AG, Basel. This article examines a remarkable learning event where a high school class developed, on its own, a stable, normative view of thermal equilibration. The event is also notable because the intuitive ideas that students bootstrapped into their model of equilibration have been thoroughly documented in prior research. Therefore, the process of changing prior conceptions is well delineated. The main point of the article is to review what happened in this microcosm of learning from multiple perspectives to examine how well each perspective can account for the learning that took place. We use three competing views of conceptual change: Knowledge in Pieces, the Theory Theory, and the Ontological View. We argue that Knowledge in Pieces provides a more detailed and more adequate account of the learning that took place, whereas that learning contradicts core commitments of the Theory Theory and of the Ontological View.

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