Eliciting and understanding commonsense reasoning about motion
The focus of the present research is on children's commonsense reasoning in mechanics. The important effect of pre-instructional ideas on children's learning is now widely recognised and much effort has gone into investigating what these ideas are like in various domain areas in science in the past few years. Early researches in this area have provided us with a comprehensive catalog of phenomenological descriptions of various aspects of children's reasoning about forces and motion. A related line of research has grown over recent years, which attempts to probe into whether there are deeper explanations underlying these misconceptions. If we take scientific theories and commonsense reasoning as two ends of a dichotomy, then early researches in this field have predominantly started from the scientific end, looking towards the intuitive end, trying to find out where the intuitive ideas go astray. To look for deeper levels of analysis, some have since turned to looking from the opposite end, trying to take children's ideas seriously, in their own right and not as a distortion of the scientific view. This latter perspective is the one taken by the present research and is believed to be appropriate if an understanding of the phenomenological descriptions of children's intuitive ideas is to be attained. The present research sets out to investigate the possible cognitive models used in the spontaneous interpretation of and reasoning about motion by students with varying amounts of Physics instruction. It is hoped that the resulting models will not only provide a context for interpreting children's misconceptions, but also provide insight into the evolution of naive cognitive models to more scientific ones. The research consists of two tasks. The first is a classification task asking students to categorize comic strip pictures about motion and to explain their underlying reasoning. The second is a programming task, asking students to write expert systems about motion in the language PROLOG. The second task is in fact one of self elicitation of knowledge by the students themselves under the assistance of the researcher. The advantage of such an exercise is that the representation is not only open for inspection by the students but is also explorable. The results from both tasks will be analysed and synthesized in the thesis.