Archive for May, 2008


Up Coming Conferences:

  • · The ASERA Conference

The Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA) 2008

Brisbane from July 2 to July 5, 2008 at Rydges South Bank

  • · The WAIER Conference

Western Australian Institute for Educational Research (WAIER)

23rd Annual Research Forum

at Edith Cowan University, 2 Bradford Street, Mt Lawley

9.30 am – 4.30 pm, Saturday 9 August 2008


Probing for Students’ Understanding in Chemistry: Using Multiple Approaches (Part Four: two-tier diagnostic test)

1. Two-tier Diagnostic Test

The other approach can be used to investigate students’ understanding is two-tier diagnostic test which was developed by David F. Treagust. This approach is powerful to encourage students’ analytical thinking on understanding the concepts. In addition, there are varied format of this instrument (Mann & Treagust, 1998), but basically the first tier of each item in the test is a multiple choice of possible answers which relates to the problem statements. The second tier of each item is composed of a multiple choice set of reasons for the answer related to the first tier which consist of one scientific concept and others alternative conceptions.

Furthermore, this instrument can be used for formative assessments, assessing students’ understanding and encouraging them to think about the concepts rather than memorize the facts (Treagust & Chandrasegaran, 2007) which could lead to interesting discussion and meaningful information of students’ understanding. Moreover, since current assessment not provide valid measures of students’ knowledge and encourages discussion, this instrument could be a solution. It is because this instrument requires the explanation and answers which is given to assess students’ knowledge. According to Taber (2000) as cited in Levy Nahum, (2004), students’ explanations of scientific concepts is evidence of conceptualise process. Two-tier diagnostic instrument could be used as effective way of assessing meaningful learning among students. As a result the information could be used to improve teaching and address students’ alternative conceptions.

In addition, according to Treagust (1988), there are three main procedures to develop this instrument:

1. The content is defined by the identification of propositional content knowledge statements of the topic to be taught (using the concept map)

2. Information about students’ conceptions which could be found through literature review, students’ free explanations, and unstructured interview)

3. Development the two-tier multiple choice diagnostic items. First tier consist of content questions which could be 2-4 choices. The second tier consists of four possible answers given to the first part. Then, correct answers for both of tiers are correct

Moreover, there are several studies which have been investigated in chemistry: (1) chemical bonding (14-16 years students, first tier True or false, second tier explanation, (2) chemical reactions using multiple representations (grade 9) (enhance students’ ability to describe and explain some chemical reactions), (3) qualitative analysis, (4) ionization energies of elements, (5) acids and bases, and (6) states of matters (Treagust & Chandrasegaran (2007). However, according to Treagust & Chandrasegaran (2007), raw score on the test could underestimate students’ knowledge, for example students who looked on deeper meaning could give the answers which are categorized as wrong answer. Moreover, sometimes it becomes more tests taking skills rather than the extant knowledge. This is an example of process of development two-tier diagnostic instrument on chemical reactions:

Stage 1. Defining the content

Chemical reactions topic is integrated in secondary school in Indonesia consist of chemical change (law of conversion of mass), equation (products and reactants), energy (exothermic and endothermic), balance the equations, and type of reactions.

Stage 2. Investigate information about students’ conceptions

There are several studies on students’ alternative conceptions of chemical reactions:

1. Students find difficulties on balancing the chemical reaction equations on the concepts of subscripts and coefficients, (Sanger, 2005)

2. Students’ alternate conceptions in chemistry on the conservation of mass, molecules, and atoms during a chemical reaction is “the total number of molecules is also conserved in a chemical reaction”, Mulford and Robinson (2002)

3. Students think that boiling is part of chemical reactions because of the bubble formations (gas) and students also find difficulties to understand different types of chemical reactions and how it’s happened which is related to chemical bonding (my experiences on teaching chemical reactions)

Step 3. Develop the two-tier multiple choice diagnostic items

Example Items 1 are modified version from existing instruments. Item No. 2 is developed by Chandrasegaran, Treagust, & Mocerino (2005) :

1. Salt (NaCl) is added into the water, and then it is heated. After couple minutes the salt can longer be seen, bubbles come out and the water will taste salty because the chemical reaction is happened.

a. True b. False


1. *The heat water break up the chemical bonding in the salt compound into Na and Cl

2. It is only solution process, because salt is soluble in the water

3. The chemical reactions is happened because the bubbles is indicator of chemical reactions

4. Water molecules surround the salt molecules and break up the salt into smaller particles

5. __________________________________________

2. The symbol for the magnesium present in magnesium ribbon is

A. Mg b. Mg2+


1. Magnesium has a charge of +2

2. The Magnesium atom is highly reactive

3. The Magnesium atom has positive nucleus

4. The particles in magnesium are neutral atoms

Furthermore, this instrument is important for my pre-service teachers as well as the teachers not only to assess their alternative conceptions but also to investigate their students’ understanding. As a result, the information from this instrument could be used to choose the appropriate teaching approaches to deal with students’ alternative conceptions.


Firstly, probing students’ understanding in chemistry need to be concerned by teachers, not only to obtain information about students’ conceptions, but also as starting point to choose appropriate teaching strategies. Information of students’ understanding could help teachers to understand the problems which are held by the students to understand the concepts.

Secondly, questioning and interview approach are powerful to probe students’ understanding through depth probing. However, these approaches require much time and substantial skills. In addition, concept map and concept cartoon are useful to stimulate students’ attention and motivation. These approaches could be applied within different procedures and purposes. The two-tier diagnostic test is not only to probe students’ conceptions and understanding, but also could be used as formative assessment and discussion topic.

Thirdly, all approaches could be used to probe students’ understanding, stimulate the discussions, motivate students’ learning, and create meaningful learning experiences. However, each approach has own characteristic, strength and limitations, therefore, teacher may choose the appropriate approach to be used in the classroom.

Probing for Students’ Understanding in Chemistry: Using Multiple Approaches (Part Three: Concept Cartoon & Concept Map)

1. Concept Cartoon

Concept cartoon could be used to probe students’ understanding through interactive pictures with limited words. According to Keogh and Naylor (1999), there are three elements on the concept cartoon: 1) visual images, 2) minimal written language, 3) present alternative concept or questions relating to one central topic, 4) applying scientific ideas within everyday situations. According to Keogh and Naylor (1996), motivate and engage students through concept cartoon is major advantage of applying concept cartoon in science classroom. Moreover, this approach stimulates and challenge students’ thinking on their alternative conceptions. Students will evaluate their conceptions through representation of different alternative conceptions in concept cartoon. As a result, they will not feel shy, fear or being judged because the character on the cartoon could be represent their conceptions. The other advantage is stimulating students with minimal prompting from the teachers to discover the acceptable scientific ideas. This is an example of cartoon in chemistry topic which can be applied through Power point presentation or using OHP.


Figure 2. Concept Cartoon on Chemistry

However, within the limitation of resources, teachers could use paper with cartoon on it. In this approach, teachers’ creativity is challenged to create the interesting cartoon and strategies to represent it. Moreover, teachers also need to be aware of misunderstanding could be happened when students only focus on the cartoons, not on the content itself. Therefore, integrate cartoon approach with questioning and discussion will help teacher to identify this problem.

2. Concept Map

Concept map is a tool to investigate organisation of learners’ cognitive structure which is developed by Novak and Gowin ( Regis, Albertazzi, & Roletto, 1996). According to White and Gunstone (1992), concept map is applied to investigate students’ thinking about the relationship between the concepts or ideas. Concept map can help students to find the relationship between the knowledge which lead to meaningful learning experiences rather than memorise the concepts (Pendley, Bretz, & Novak, 1994). Once students understand the concepts, they will find easy to create the concept map about the topic. Therefore, it helps the teacher to probe student’ understanding, especially for the big class size which takes time to evaluate students’ understanding through writing or essays. Table 3. bellow shows the procedures and the purpose of using concept map (White & Gunstone, 1992)

Table 3. Purposes, Procedures and Recommendations of Using Concept Map

Concept Maps Approach


Procedures (an Example)

Recommendations for Teachers

· Exploring understanding within the limited aspects of the topic

· Investigate students’ understanding by asking the explanation of their concept map

· Probe students’ understanding on the relation between each concepts

· Probe students’ understanding by asking them to choose the key concept

· Identify students’ learning process through changes of their concept map

· Promote the discussion


· Create cards which consist of several terms on one topic (simple topic)

· Arrange the cards which is shown the relationship

· Create the links (using lines)

· Ask student to create their own concept map

· Begin with simple topic

· Create one in front of the class as an example

· Encourage students to create all possible links

· Give suggestion on students’ first concept map which is unlikely good

· Emphasis to students there are no right or wrong concept maps

This an example of applying concept map in teaching and learning chemistry on the topic of chemical reactions for Secondary School in Indonesia.


Figure 3. Concept Map for Secondary Level in Indonesia

Probing for Students’ Understanding in Chemistry: Using Multiple Approaches (Part Two: Questioning & Interviews)

1. Questioning

Questioning approach is basic strategy to investigate students’ understanding which is widely used in the classroom practices. According to Oakes (1996) as cited in Carr (1998),” questioning can be used to extend pupils, maintain the pace of the lesson involve all pupils in the work and provide encouragement”. Questioning approach could stimulate the discussion in the classroom and clarify the students’ conceptions, attract students’ attention, and pose problems for solutions (Marsh, 2000). According to Selley (2000), questioning approach not only simply enhances the acceptable conceptions in students’ mind, but for encouraging students to really knows the reasons of concepts. However, even though it is acknowledgeable as useful approach to gain depth information of students’ understanding, but it need extensive skills such as not to judge students’ thinking by telling them they are wrong (Tytler, 2002b), waiting for the response, and respect of students’ thinking. Therefore, teachers need to design carefully their questioning techniques in classrooms so that students will express their understanding.

Furthermore, there are different types of questions that teachers can use in science classrooms (Carr, 1998) and each type is briefly described in table 1.

Table 1. Different Types of Questions

Type of questions




Stimulate the discussion through asking students’ opinions

“What do you think might be happened in this reaction?


Guide students into specific information

“Could you give an example to show…?”


clarify important points in the discussion

“Are you sure of that…”


check for student understanding

“How many mols are there in 80 gr of NaOH?


encouraging students’ investigatory skills

“If the KMnO4 solution is added to the oxalic acid, what do you think will be happened?

According to Carr (1998), questions which prompting students’ involvement, questions, and answers could engage students within meaningful learning experience. This type of questions also could help students to reflect on their existing understanding. However, the research study shows that, teacher mostly used closed questions and less reinforcement for students (Carr, 1998) which is easier than other types of questions. As a result, it is important for teachers to be aware of the advantages of others types of questions, so this approach could optimally promotes students’ understanding.

2. Interview about Events and Instances

Interview is one approach which could help teachers to monitor the learning process in the learners’ mind and students’ understanding about concepts. According to Treagust (1988), students’ interview is usual approach to obtain information about students’ alternative conceptions. Teacher could find out the students’ thinking, clarify student responses and allow the depth probing by asking questions and interview (Bell, Osborne, & Tasker, 1985; Anderson, 2004). In addition, this strategy also could identify the students’ misconceptions. One example of using interview in the classroom is instances and events interview. The interview of the instances and events is “a conversation that an expert has with one student, focused by initial questions about situations represented in as series of line diagrams [which can be used to] probe children constructions of meanings of concepts” (White & Gunstone, 1992, p.1). According to Carr (1996), interview about instances uses the cards which consist of the pictures and small words which are familiar with the students’ world, such as the picture of people’s swimming to investigate students’ understanding on the concept of floating and sinking. According to Tytler (2002), students have difficulties to apply scientific concept within daily life or out of school context. Moreover, interview about events carry out the activities which can probe students’ understanding. For example, a vitamin C tablet is dissolved in water to investigate students’ understanding on the state of matter. This approach could be applied in teaching and learning chemistry which is shown by figure 1.


Figure 1. The Cards and Activities for Interview about Instances and Events Approaches in Chemical Reactions

However, interview could lead to problems when students feel pressure to give the right answer. Therefore, there are several procedures need to be concerned for using this approach which is shown by the table 2.bellow (Carr, 1996):

Table 2. Several Procedures for Interviews



Getting Started

· Start with the neutral topic

· Explain about the reasons to the interview

· Give the positive encouragement (to get the students’ thinking not a test)

Nondirection of responses

· Positive respond for unexpected students’ answer

· Respond by repeating students’ answer to clarify

· Consider the semi-structured interview


· Don’t judge students’ answer

· Value the responses (verbal and non-verbal)

Patience in Awaiting a Response

· Take time (silence) in order to get the valuable information from students

Cross-Referencing During the interview

· Prepared response to clarify students’ ideas

Recording and Interpreting the Information

· Use the tape recorder

· Listen carefully to get the main ideas of students’ thinking

· Consider the subjectivity on interpret the data

Therefore, in the classroom, teacher should have the skills to conduct the interview with their students in order to get the real information of their student’s knowledge. In addition, it is important to establish clearly what students think and listen carefully to their responses (Bell, Osborne, & Tasker, 1985). However, although the interview has the advantage to clarify students’ understanding and depth probing (Anderson, 2004), but it is unlikely to applied by the teacher in the classroom as it is time-consuming and require substantial skills (Treagust, 1988; Othman, 2006). As a result, teachers need to be creative to create the appropriate strategies to apply interview in the classroom.

Probing for Students’ Understanding in Chemistry: Using Multiple Approaches (Part One)


Students’ understanding becomes the main concern for teaching and learning in science. The problems of learning achievement in science influence the researchers and practitioners to consider multiple approaches to investigate students’ understanding. In addition, according to Treagust and Chandrasegaran (2007), currently science curriculum concerns on the multiple aspects on students’ understanding of scientific concepts and phenomena. However, even though research studies on students’ understanding of science concept have been widely developed, but studies which focus on teaching strategies to promote students’ understanding need to be explored (Keogh and Naylor, 1999). Therefore, different approaches to probe students’ understanding have been exploring not only to solve the problem of learning achievement, but also to engage students into scientific concepts and meaningful learning experience.

Furthermore, implementations of different approaches of students’ understanding in chemistry need to be developed since many students consider chemistry as difficult subject and find difficulties to understand the chemistry concepts. However, majority teachers do not effectively diagnose students’ learning problems and to measure the effectiveness of their classroom instruction. In addition, most teachers also find difficulties both to explain science concepts and investigate students’ understanding (Treagust & Chandrasegaran, 2007; Tytler, 2002b, Mann & Treagust, 1998). Therefore, it is important for help the teachers to explore different approaches of probing students’ understanding. This paper provides the review of different approaches of probing students’ understanding, especially in chemistry subject. The approaches are:1) questioning, 2) interview about events and instances, 3) concept cartoon, 4) concept map, and 5) two tier diagnostic. These different approaches have the advantages and limitations. Therefore, teachers need to consider the appropriate approaches that could be applied in their classroom.

The Importance of Probing Students’ Understanding in Chemistry

Many students presume that chemistry is difficult subject which leads to the low achievement and motivation. According to Levy Nahum, (2004), students find difficulties to understand chemical concepts which are abstract. Moreover, according to Pendley, Bretz, and Novak (1994), the common problems in learning chemistry is because students learn by rote, students don’t understand the concepts and it’s relations, and teachers fail to give instructions of key concepts. In addition, students have difficulties to integrate any new information with their cognitive structures since the existing knowledge is integrated and resistance with their experience. Therefore, multiple approaches should engage students within meaningful learning experience through their daily lived experiences.

Besides, it is also important for teachers to realise that learners could have different understanding to those be determined by teachers (Nakhleh, 1992; Tytler, 2002a). According to Lin, Lee, & Treagust, (2005), “science teachers should have understanding about their students’ learning progress and achievement to attain their expectations for student learning achievement”. In addition, probing students’ understanding could help teacher to apply appropriate strategies and promote learning and understanding (Talaquer, 2006). However, most research studies shown that teachers didn’t give much approach to probe students’ understanding which is supported by the existing assessment which is not demand students’ explanations (Treagust & Chandrasegaran, 2007). Therefore, it is important to provide the consciousness about the importance of probing students’ understanding.

However, there are critics on investigating students’ understanding such as time consuming and meaningless since the curriculum force teachers to focus on standardise assessment. According to Tytler (2002a), there are two problems on probing students’ understanding. First, it is difficult for teacher to deal with many ideas of each student. Second, it is extremely difficult to deal with the students’ alternative conceptions and change their ideas into scientific conceptions. Furthermore, students need different strategies for different aspects of their learning (Selley, 2000), because every students has different style of learning. According to Parkinson (2000), individual’s learning style is influenced by nature and nurture. As a result, it is important for teachers to choose appropriate strategies which are effective and efficient way to probe students’ understanding and hold students’ differentiations.

Multiple Approaches

There are multiple approaches to investigate students’ understanding which are discussed in this paper: 1) questioning, 2) interview about events and instances, 3) concept cartoon, 4) concept map, 5) two-tier diagnostic. Multiple approaches are provided to give opportunity for students to learn optimally within their learning style. In addition, even though each approach has their own characteristic, advantages and limitations, but it will be prevailing to be applied complementary in the classroom to probe students’ understanding, especially in chemistry subject.

My Reflections on Social Constructivism (Journal 3B)

1. In what way is your teaching already shaped by a social constructivist perspective? Is there anything more that you might now consider? Could the CLES be useful for monitoring your teaching?

2. What have you learned in this topic?

My simple understanding on social constructivism is engaging the students through collaborative work with their peers in the classroom. I never thought that there is the fundamental reason behind that which related to the socially constructed of scientific knowledge itself (others knowledge too). Moreover, even though I applied cooperative learning, but I was still intervention my students’ thinking to have one conceptual changes immediately. I think that I was impatient through the process, I forced my students to get the “correct” answer shortly, without gave them opportunities to do much effort. Just giving them “the food” rather than guide them “the way to get the food”. I think it similar as relativist view rather than constructivism itselfJ, even though I applied constructivism (may be pseudo constructivismJ).

In addition, I never think so complex the learning process, as Driver, et all points out, there is no simple rules of teaching. Therefore, I am getting realize my essentials’ role to be a mediator to introduce my students’ on the cultural tolls of learning process. Furthermore, I agree that it is difficult to learn without social process, because since individuals were born, they need social process to learn about something from the adult or community itself. Reflecting on my teaching, how can I push my students to be passive learners to receive “the transferring file” from my mind and ignore their daily activities to receive the knowledge (through social process, even since they were born).

Moreover, as well as the other topic, I learn much from this social constructivism. It is challenge my creativity to create the appropriate teaching strategy, especially on open and critical discourse. I realize that my students should know and apply their critical voice, especially on the value, culture, and myth in their life which sometimes constrains their thinking/decisions. It becomes powerful, if this dilemma could be engaged in the classroom and it also becomes challenges for teachers to represent it in the classroom, especially the using of language. According to Marsh (2000), teachers’ behaviour, especially the language will influence students’ values and behaviour. In my country, for example, the ethical issues in science such as euthanasia. Even though, it is still an ethical debate, but it is not allowed in the religion, as a result, there is no debate in term of these topics, because of the religion power. Therefore, students’ ability to weigh moral issues and make moral judgments is restrained in the classroom. It also constrains teachers’ thinking to apply this critical voice in the classroom which seems to be useless, because the answer will be back to your value, religion, and cultureJ.

Furthermore, since I learn learning environment instrument, I am interested to develop it as the tool on my research. It also one area which is not yet developed in my country and it might be convenient for my colleagues who prefer to develop research on post positive. Therefore CLES instrument could help me as one of tools to evaluate my teaching. The scale could be representing the learning environment that is created, but the integration methods also need to be applied. Not only answer the instrument, but also my own observation and interview with students (may be I need help to do that to consider my intervention on students’ opinion). Moreover, I am curious that can I involve my students on their learning (as Vaille did) ? I never do that, especially on the assessment. According to Linn & Miller (2005), assessment is an integrated process for determining the nature and extent of student learning and development through the active involvement on the students’ learning. I hope that I can apply the collaborative learning in my classroom which build the students’ confidence rather than destroy their self-esteem as learners (Stiggins, 2001).

In addition, I also feel curious when I read all the readings, because not only I want to have depth understanding of social constructivism itself, but also I found this unit gives opportunity for me to understand the philosophy of each type of constructivism. Especially, the reading by Driver, et all, which I found all the words are important for me (I almost highlight all the words, when I came back again to read, I became confuse because too many highlightJ). Moreover, the examples of applying the concepts within the science classroom give me the clear ideas how the process of enculturation is happened in the classroom.

This unit reminds me when I watched the news couple years ago on the topic “ Pluto is not planet. Throughout my learning process of scientific knowledge, I never doubt that the entire concept that I read in the science books or my teachers gave me is true. Then, I was shock when, the one third of astronomy expert decided that the Pluto is not a planet anymore. I became realize how powerful the scientific community decision to change the scientific knowledge which is acceptable or organized valid. At that time, I just thought that it is only my perceptions, but since I engage with this module, I comprehend on the concept that the scientific knowledge is constructed and validated through the social process within the scientific community. Even though, it involves the individuals’ construction, but the socially process is important to construct the scientific knowledge. However, I still think about the scientific community itself, if the knowledge considerable as a science, but not validated by scientific community, it means not scientific knowledge?. If herbal medicine or other things which is generated and validated from certain community (culture), is it still not scientific knowledge? Is it the one that problematic for Emilia and Cupane? (Inclusive, hybrid, etc.).

Furthermore, related to conceptual change, I realize that the existing of conceptual change is because it seems that the goal of science education is achieving the “one absolute truth” of scientific knowledge. This represent on my standardized assessment which is given wright and wrong answer. Therefore, I don’t feel strange if teachers’ and students’ focus on conceptual change itself. Furthermore one example of diagnosis students conception is two-tier diagnosis, I found this instrument is useful to explore students’ conceptions. I plan to create this test one, but with adding open-ended questions which give opportunity for students to bring their other ideas. Even though, may be the list of conceptions will influence their answer, but this instrument will help me as one of many ways to explore my students’ own ideas within “my big class”. However, it will be better if providing open options both on first tier and on second tier. According to Treagust & Chandrasegaran (2007), raw score on the test could underestimate students’ knowledge, for example students who looked on deeper meaning could give the answers which are categorized as wrong answer. Moreover, sometimes it becomes more tests taking skills rather than the extant knowledge. Again, I need to put my dialectical thinking, integral perspectiveJ, nothing is perfect, and everything is complementing each others. I closed my reflection by reflection, I learn many things, and again, I am worried all this valuable things will be volatile under the “standardized assessment”. Hope, it doesn’t discourage me and other teachers in my country and I believe there are many empowered teachers out thereJ.


Linn, R.L., & Miller, M.D. (2005). Measurement and assessment in teaching. New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Stiggins, R.J. (2001). Introduction to the special section: Building a productive assessment future. National Association of Secondary Principals, 85(62), 2-4.

Treagust, D.F. & Chandrasegaran (2007). The Taiwan national science concept learning study in an international perspective. International Journal of Science Education, 29(4), 391-403.

Social Constructivism (Journal 3A)

1. Driver et al. Article

This article is a theoretical account of the power of combining personal and social constructivist perspectives on knowing in the context of school science. A radical constructivist thread is woven into this perspective, highlighting the inherent (epistemic) uncertainty of scientific disciplinary knowledge.The authors are international scholars in the UK – Rosalind Driver received the Outstanding Scholar Award from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (USA) which recognises the contribution of a life-time’s work – sadly she passed away several years ago.

1.1 Nature of Scientific Knowledge

The objects of science are not the phenomena of nature but constructs that are advanced by the scientific community to interpret nature“. What do the authors mean? What view of scientific knowledge arises from the Social Constructivist perspective of Driver et al.? What is meant by a relativist view?

The scientific knowledge is recognized not only because of the symbolic of nature itself, but also further constructed and validated through social interaction or dialog process within the scientific community. There are some “core commitments” within the scientific community to produce the scientific knowledge which could be (now) different from the “reality” of nature itself (who knows?). Therefore, once the scientific knowledge is validated by scientific community, it becomes the “acceptable scientific” concepts. The problem is the individuals or learners are improbable to find these acceptable scientific concepts through their own observation in the natural world. Therefore, if their teacher failed to facilitate the process of introduce the students to this culture or social institution, students will find separated ideas between scientific concepts of nature with the nature itself. It becomes the basic idea of social constructivism to view the scientific knowledge as the result of scientific community’s activities through social process. This view has major implications in teaching and learning science on creating social activities in the classroom. The learning process should recognize that individuals construct their own meaning on scientific knowledge (basic of personal constructivism), but further validated and communicated through social process. It is important to shaping science teaching in term of helping the learners to making sense of the scientific knowledge on their individual level within this cultural process. It is different from empiricist view which organizes individual sense-making and force students to accept the scientific view without any personal sense on it. Therefore, teachers’ role is important to create the “bridge” between individuals’ construction and the community of scientific knowledge through creating the social cultural setting in the classroom.

On the other hand, the relativist position view that scientific knowledge is true reflection of the world. This view points out the absolute truth of the world, which is impossible to have different perspectives on it. The scientific knowledge is true the nature itself, there is no intervention of socially process within the community. As a result, there is only one way to acquire the knowledge through the observation the world itself. Therefore, the progress of scientific knowledge becomes problematic from this perspective when the knowledge is changed because of the result of social process within the scientific community. Then, social constructivist perspective purposes the other view related to this ontology of reality, which is the scientific knowledge is constrained by the world itself, but it further constructed by social process. However, even though this relativist views need to be evaluated, but it is still mostly applied in teaching science, such as my teachingL.

1.2 Learning as Enculturation

From the Social Constructivist perspective of Driver et al., why is the metaphor of learning as enculturation more beneficial than the metaphor of learning as discovery? The interventionist role of the teacher is important for enabling students to construct ‘cultural tools’. What might they be?

The authors point out learning as enculturation engage the learners to involve within the ideas and practices of scientific community which provide the meaningful learning experiences on individual level. Scientific community later recognize as cultural or social institution which provides the process of internalization on it. Scientific knowledge is constructed when the individuals actively engage through social process, such as share the problems and task. As Piaget points out that social interaction could promote individuals’ cognitive development, such as through discussion. Moreover, the representation of scientific knowledge is communicated and validated within everyday culture which is difficult to be discovered by individual without the cultural process within this community. In addition, the authors declare that empiric studies of natural world will not expose scientific knowledge because is discursive in nature. Learning only or “pure” by individual process is almost impossible without social process which is recognize as learning as discovery. Therefore, learning as enculturation is more beneficial than learning as discovery.

Furthermore, teachers’ role is important to help students to make personal sense of the process of knowledge is constructed, generated, and validated within the community. It is more engaging the learners rather than to “organize individual sense-making about natural world.” The scientific knowledge as a product of scientific community culture needs to be introduced to learners. Moreover, well-designed learning experiences need to be developed to help students to recognize their personal sense. Classroom as the place to actively engage the students to understand and interpret the phenomena by themselves, then the social interactions with their peers could provide opportunity for them to reflect on their ideas. Teacher’s role is creating this physical environment to help students reflect on their ideas through this social process. This process will be meaningful for students and it could engage the students to modify their own ideas by themselves if they found it no longer appropriate. Teacher could create the learning environment which could encourage students to give their explanations or arguments on their ideas. Furthermore, the teacher as an “expert member” within the cultural institution need to provide “appropriate” culture tools such as “structuring tasks” which give opportunity for the learners as less experience members for internalize process and the take conscious control. Therefore, teachers’ intervention is essential to “provide appropriate evidence and make cultural tools and conventions of the science community”. As a result, it becomes challenges for the teachers not only to create the uncultured process within the classroom setting, but also face the conflict between the new ideas with the students’ prior knowledge.

1.3 Pluralism

What is meant by students having differing ‘conceptual profiles’ and what is problematic from this perspective about the notion of ‘conceptual change’?…this issue is relevant to the Socio-cultural perspective we explore in the next topic.

The authors provide the notion of conceptual profiles which provide opportunity for the learners to have plural conceptual schemes which appropriate for the specific social settings. Moreover, learning can be better if providing the parallel constructing within the specific context. Because individuals are unique, they could have different perspectives to make sense of the knowledge which doesn’t mean their perspectives are wrong. These different/plural perspectives could be appropriate within specific context. By respecting on the plurality of students’ conceptual profiles, students become more confident to express their own ideas. Through this process, students will found how valuable their thinking within the learning process in the classroom.

On the other hand, the conceptual change which is mostly applied in science teaching) didn’t allow students to have multiple conceptual since science itself is objective truth. Therefore, the conceptual change could be problematic if the individuals only allow having “one conceptual profile” to understand the concept, because their ideas could be appropriate for describe the nature phenomena within specific context. According to Posner group as cited in Taylor (1996), students should have dissatisfaction experience to their own ideas and fin the new ideas are intelligible, plausible, and fruitful. Moreover, school is not only simply to changing one conceptual into the acceptance one, but also to develop the conscious how the theories are developed. However, I think that both of conceptual profiles and conceptual change could be come together on the end of the process. I mean, conceptual profiles could be the “idiosyncratic” with conceptual change if the social setting is specific describing. For example, the concept of chemical reactions could be different from different students, they could see as arrangement of atoms, energy changing, or physical quantum which depend on the setting. But, it the context is specific provided, it could provide “idiosyncratic” conceptual (my assumption).

1.4 No Simple Rules for Teaching

In their summary, the authors’ state that no simple rules for pedagogical practice emerge from a constructivist view of learning”. Why not? Nevertheless, from a Social Constructivist perspective, what is the important features of the classroom role of the teacher? This issue is relevant to Constructivism being regarded as a referent in the next topic.

Since the scientific knowledge is constructed, validated, and communicated trough social process within scientific community, relationship between learning and pedagogy becomes difficult. If the representations of scientific knowledge in the classroom are very different with the everyday representations, learners will find the difficulties within their learning process. Learning science in the classroom introduce students to the new culture and discourse. According to Taylor (1996), “teachers are expected to work collaboratively as agents of cultural change in forums beyond their classrooms. However, it is not simple ways process to involve students within this process, because it needs appropriate ways to making sense on the new ideas. Therefore, teachers’ role is essential to introduce these cultural tools to make personal sense of viewing the world. In addition, in the classroom, teacher’s role is not only to introduce the new ideas and guide them to making sense by themselves, but also to listen and diagnose the instructions which are appropriate. Therefore, teaching becomes the learning process for the teacher to develop this process in appropriate way (teachers also learn), because it needs much effort to mediate between students’ everyday life and scientific world itself. As a result, there are no simple rules for pedagogical practices.

2. Dawson & Taylor Article

This article was written with one of my doctoral students, Vaille Dawson, now Lecturer at Edith Cowan University. Vaille had experimented with using a social constructivist perspective to shape the discussion in her Year 9 science classroom during a topic on ethics in science. The study yielded both promising outcomes and a salutary warning for constructivist zealots.

2.1 Open and Critical Discourse. A critical constructivist perspective shaped Vaille’s innovative approach to teaching bioethical dilemmas in her science class. Critical constructivism is explored in the next topic, so for now please explain the concepts of ‘open discourse’ and ‘critical discourse’ in the context of Vaille’s teaching.

Open discourse provides opportunities for students using their language to describe their own ideas and have learning experience as co-participatory activity. It is part of critical constructivism and challenges the students to face the conflict between their prior knowledge and the topic which is given. The students learn to value others’ opinion and reflect on their own. On Vaille’s teaching open discourse is applied through dilemma topic on Bioethics which challenges students to express their personal value. The applying of open discourse on her teaching represents through two scales of CLES which are personal relevance and student negotiation. On the personal relevance, Vaille stimulates students’ thinking through the ethical issues, listens and accepts to their views. She engages the students through this critically thinking process by bringing the outside world into the classroom. On students’ negotiation, Vaille provides opportunities for students to reflect on their own views and develop their understanding through discussion and collaborative learning activities with their peers. In this point, it is important to educate the students to respect and tolerant with different opinions. In addition, critical discourse provides opportunity to the “uncomfortable zone” which tends to open the existing social reality or culture which sometimes constrains students’ thinking. This process also encourages students to be critical and aware of the powerful myth within their reality. Vaille points out this critical discourse provides opportunities for students to “deconstructing social and emotional barriers to learning” which could engage students to view science as applicable knowledge in the daily life.

2.2 The CLES. Vaille chose 3 of the 5 scales of the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey to help her evaluate the implementation of her innovative teaching. The CLES was designed in accordance with a critical constructivist perspective (more on this in the next topic) to enable teacher-researchers to monitor the implementation of their constructivist inspired teaching approaches. It is available at the web site: along with papers on its development and use (versions for maths and science are interchangeable…just replace the term ‘science’ with ‘maths’). Please summarise the main characteristics of each of the five scales (Personal Relevance, Social Negotiation, etc).

There are five scales in CLES which are Personal Relevance Scale, Shared Control Scale, Critical Voice Scale, Student Negotiation Scale, and Uncertainty Scale.

Scale Name

Main Characteristics

Sample Item

Personal Relevance

· Relevancy between students’ learning and their world

· The degree of activities which bring the outside world into classroom

· Recognize and respect on students knowledge, values and experiences which they bring in the classroom

· Students become recognize the useful of their social world beyond the classroom (meaningful learning experiences)

I learn about the world outside the school

Shared Control

· Recognizing students’ autonomous in their learning

· Students’ participation in planning, conducting, and assessment of learning

I help teacher to plan what I’m going to learn

Critical Voice

· Students have opportunity to express their critical ideas (teacher as facilitator)

· Legitimacy of students’ critical voice

· Students enable to give the critical views on teaching and learning (such as teacher’s pedagogical plans, and methods) or “any impediments to their learning”

· Students could deconstruct social and emotional barrier in learning such as become a passive learners

It’s Ok to ask teacher, “Why do we have to learn this?”

Student Negotiation

· Students engage on cooperative working, reflect on their own ideas, and develop understanding and value

· Students not only reflect on viability of other students’ ideas, but also self-critically on their ideas

· Involvement with other students in assessing viability of new ideas (working together to solve the problems)

· Students also learn to respect and tolerance with other opinions

I ask other students to explain their ideas


· Provisional status of scientific knowledge

· The extent of uncertainty of knowledge which are represented and valued in the classroom

· Teacher as facilitator for students to engage with uncertainty knowledge which could be a part of students’ experiences

I learn that the views of science have changed overtime

2.3 Resistance to Epistemic Transformation. Although many students in Vaille’s class embraced enthusiastically the innovative constructivist learning environment she was attempting to introduce, others resisted. What major factors were identified in this study as having contributed to students resisting the teachers invitation to engage profitably in open and critical discourse? Can you suggest other possible factors?

Vaille created the learning experiences which engage students through open and critical discourse. She designed the learning experiences which provide opportunities for classroom debate and discussion. This type of learning activities require students to be active participate, engage and responsible on their learning goals. It became challenging for the learners who want to move on from their “comfort zone” as passive learners. But, for the others it became problems, since they view learning as “transferring” process. The other reason is because it put pressure to students to give contribution and engage with the learning goals, some students felt uncomfortable on it. Therefore, it is also important for teachers (transformative teachers) who willing to apply the new strategies to realize that some students could be lack willingness to engage with the process. Moreover, her students realize the value of the activities, but they felt that it is lacking relation to their science learning. As a result, they seem unwilling to engage the learning. In addition, social constructivism requires students’ engagement through the collaborative learning. Therefore, it is important for them to understand their own leaning process, especially their own knowledge of the world which based on their experiences. Vallie also taught students to realize and respect on students’ different ideas which sometimes it is difficult to accept others ideas. People tend to be happy as the correct/superior one. I think for applying the constructivism, it is not only shifting paradigms for teachers but also for students from passive to active learners.

3. Confrey article

Jere Confrey (a female) is one of the leading mathematics educators in North America. She has written extensively about the use of a social constructivist perspectivefor shaping the teaching and learning of primary school mathematics.

3.1 What more did you learn about teaching from a Social Cvst perspective from this paper? (eg., teacher questioning, modelling).

A social constructivism perspective gives major implication on students’ role within their learning such as collaboration and negotiation. As a result, teachers’ instruction is important to promote students’ autonomy, reflection, construction, and negotiation. Teacher need to shift their paradigm from traditional to constructivist, form product to process oriented, from routines to reflections. I agree that the most basic skill that teacher need to develop is approach to unexpected respond from their students which have very unpredictable perspectives. It is also emphasized by Piaget that child may see the mathematics or scientific ideas with different way as result of different form of argument, materials, and experiences. It is not easy or simple way to replace this idea, teacher need to convince that “their ideas are not longer effective or the other ideas are more preferable”. Therefore, I realize teaching is not simple way of process changing conceptual.

Furthermore, this paper concern on the role of teachers’ instruction which is important to build the connection between students’ internal thinking process and the object outside. Therefore, teacher need to build models of students’ understanding (students’ construction) through varied ways. The instructions also need to be interactive and responsive to students’ conceptions, in this stage teachers need to prepare themselves to negotiate with students’ existing ideas (which could be acceptableJ). Then, it is important for giving opportunities for students to decide their own construction. In the instruction, teacher need to promote “ 1)the autonomy and commitment in the students, 2) development students’ reflective process, 3)construction case histories, 4) identification and negotiation solution with students, 5)retracing the solution paths, 6) adherence to the intent of material”.

On the promoting autonomy and commitment, it is important to questioning students’ answer which helps students to responsibility on their own learning. It will lead to students become good problem solvers. Furthermore, there are three categories of questions: problematic, action, and reflection. On this stage, students are challenged to encounter the situation, then solving the problems, and reflecting their solution. In addition on construction the case history, teacher try to view their own students’ performance through students’ view which can be taught as a case story. This process helps the students to challenge their own ideas and the teacher to create flexible approaches and multiple perspectives. Then on identification and negotiation of a tentative solution path provide the framework of students’ thinking to solve the problems. Teacher could work with the students to build this tentative solution path which could be through interview. Furthermore, reviewing the solution path provides opportunity to reflect on the problems and solution. All this approaches on the instruction show that the constructivist teacher has more opportunities to share the learning process with the students and more respect on students’ ideas.

3.2 What is the distinction between ‘weak’ and ‘powerful’ constructions? How might this distinction be useful?

The powerful construction engage students to identify and interpret the problems, then justify to their cognitive process. It involves students’ reflection on their construction which can lead to development of their understanding. Because of it involve students’ conscious of their thinking process and it will lead to the meaningful learning experience for them on the individual levels. On the other hand, the weak construction reflect on the learning as transferring process which depends on teachers’ input trough direct instruction. As a result students become passive learners who find difficulties to explain the reasons behind their ideas which become the problem in the learning process. However, this type of construction is common happened in the learning process which mostly influence by the teachers. Furthermore, this distinction will help teacher to decide the appropriate instruction to develop the powerful instruction. It emphasizes the importance of active views from the learners. The social constructivism view will help teacher to build this type of instruction, because students are engaging on developing their understanding through reflection and social process in classroom setting. As a result, students modify their conceptions because of their own conscious and constructive process.


Confrey, J. (1990). What constructivism implies for teaching, in Davis, Maher, and Noddings (Eds.). Constructivist views on the teaching and learning of mathematics. JRME Monograph, Reston, Virginia, NCTM.

Dawson, V.M. & Taylor, P.C. (1990). Establishing open and critical discourses in the science classroom: Reflecting on initial difficulties. Research in Science Education, 28(3), 317-336.

Driver, (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 5-12.

Taylor, P.C. (1996). Mythmaking and mythbreaking in the mathematics classroom. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 31(1,2), 151-173.