Fionnuala Johnson: Accommodation of a Scientific Conception: Toward a Theory of Conceptual Change

Published: 22 February 2024

CCSE PhD Student Fionnuala Johnson leads a reading group exploring Posner's Theory of Conceptual Change

TITLE: Accommodation of a Scientific Conception: Toward a Theory of Conceptual Change
SPEAKER: Fionnuala Johnson
DATE: 22nd February 2024
TIME: 15:00-16:00
What happens when a student is provided with new evidence that does not fit with their current understanding? A student is considered to hold a misconception if their view deviates from the commonly held view. Such misconceptions can hinder further learning. In order to fix any misconception a student must perform conceptual change. In this paper Posner explores the difficulty we all have in undertaking conceptual change, how we will avoid doing so if possible and the conditions necessary to ensure conceptual change happens. He evidences his theory with a study in Physics. Physics differs from computing science in that the former is based on developing knowledge from observations, as opposed to the latter which deals with known artefacts. To what extent does Posner’s theory of conceptual change relate to Computing Science Education?

This is a long paper (17 pages). However if you are really short on time, read the first 4 pages and from page 13 to the end. The rest of the paper reports on a study of students learning Einstein’s relativity and how it informs his theory. Skipping this section will result in skipping some important observations, so it is worth the read if you can.

After a short introduction, I hope to break into groups for discussion. I will leave my analysis of the paper until after we have heard all the feedback. I wish to conduct the talk in reverse order, so that my interpretation of the paper does not influence the general discussion. The question I will like you to consider when reading and discussing are:

  • This paper explored Posner’s theory with regard to physics, to what extent, if any, is it relevant to computer science education?
  • He sets out four conditions of accommodation in science education, how do these conditions translate into computer science education?
  • His features of a conceptual ecology are based on natural sciences where theories are developed from observation theory. Computer science deals with software and hardware that have been created by a designer and the correctness of the artefacts produced is known. In what way does this difference affect the conceptual ecology of computing science?

Find Posner's paper here:

First published: 22 February 2024