Learning about energy and processes of change : an investigation of novel aspects of a curriculum intervention
A fundamental aspect of scientific thinking is to account for why things happen, and this can be addressed by using ideas from the Second Law of Thermodynamics. These ideas are however traditionally not attended to in lower secondary school science. The present research is an evaluative study of the novel curriculum approach developed by the 'Energy and Change' project. This novel approach introduces 'Second Law thinking' in ways accessible to pupils aged 11 upwards. To accomplish this, the project developed an abstract 'picture language', through which a coherent and systematic account of the fundamental nature of all changes is told. The research was carried out in two phases. The first phase had an exploratory character and was concerned with the development of the research tools. In the second phase, the study examined the user-friendliness of the innovative aspects of the approach for pupils and teachers; the pupils' learning progress from using the innovation; and the merit of the materials for teaching, as well as for teachers' personal development. The focus was on two classes of pupils (aged 11-12 and 12- 13) over a period of eight months using the approach to study a variety of science topics. An intensive investigation of the influence of the new approach on these pupils' understanding of the nature and causes of change was undertaken, based on records of their written work, observational records of lessons and small group taskbased interviews. Moreover, the views of science teachers about the approach were elicited in questionnaires and interviews. The research concludes that the innovative aspects of the new approach were broadly accepted by both the pupils and the teachers who took part in the study. Moroever, it reveals and discusses the difficulties and challenges the pupils met when using the intended thennodynamic ideas in their explanations of change.