Students Reinventing the General Law of Energy Conservation

P S W M Logman

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis – Research and graduation external


In current education students have difficulty in applying and adapting their conceptions of energy to various situations. This may be due to the fact that the concept of energy is taught as an indisputable fact. Because the new Dutch curriculum for the exact sciences advises a context-based approach in three try-outs we have designed an innovative teaching-learning sequence that combines contexts with guided reinvention to develop a versatile conception of energy conservation. The concept of energy conservation is developed in three consecutive learning steps each aiming at a different level of versatility. We have selected technological design and scientific practices as contexts in which we embedded this learning path. Analysis of the learning process shows that for sixteen- and seventeen-year-old students every step in our approach is possible to take. Besides that we have identified several characteristics of technological design and scientific practices that enhance the learning process. In addition to learning the concept of energy conservation, embedding the learning process in authentic practices gives rise to a development of students’ technological design and scientific skills. Because the three conceptual learning steps build upon one another the level of try-out is different for each step. For the first level of versatility satisfactory results have been achieved (about two thirds of the students managed to take the corresponding conceptual learning step). For the next two levels recommendations are given. For applicability the results for this new approach are comparable to applicability results for eighteen-year-old Dutch exam students in traditional education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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