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Title: Possible origins of some common misconceptions in understanding basic electrical phenomena.
Author: Woolley, David Leonard.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3572 5835
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 1994
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This study investigated everyday descriptive and figurative language used by children, aged nine to thirteen years, when discussing electrical devices, before receiving formal tuition about electricity. The semantic structure of this language was examined, using metaphoric analysis, to isolate any reasoning, conceptual image, social convention or perceived context which might have led children to utilise a descriptive term or lexicon of terms. A judgement was made as to whether or not this utilisation could enhance understanding of, or reinforce misconceptions about, electrical devices. Experiment One used two versions of a thematic questionnaire. 238 children of wide ranging abilities responded to Version One. 59 children, of similar ability range and Asian background with English as a second language, responded to Version Two. Analysis showed that children's responses included container and fluid-flow metaphors. There were no important differences between the responses of the two groups of children. The terms Electricity, Energy and Power appeared to be used synonymously and commonly associated with a Source-Consumer model. Charge and Current occurred rarely. Battery Polarity was associated with physical position, not with any electrical meaning. Experiment Two was devised to discriminate closely between the perceived meanings of Electricity, Energy and Power. Questionnaire and interview techniques were used to present a wider variety of stimulus material than for Experiment One to a new sample of 137 children. Analysis showed that, viewing a battery as a container filled with energy which flowed to an energy consuming device, many children saw no need for a complete circuit. Power was perceived as an ability to cause energy or electricity to flow. For descriptions of mains driven devices, the term Electricity took over many of the meanings previously attributed to the term Energy. The evidence provided by the metaphoric analysis chosen is considered to be reliable and consistent. Implications for teaching are pointed out and new approaches considered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education & training