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Title: Commonsense reasoning about processes : a study of ideas about reversibility
Author: Ferracioli da Silva, Laércio Evandro
ISNI:       0000 0004 2705 8173
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1994
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In recent years, research in students' conceptions about the physical world has revealed that when children reach the age of schooling they have already developed their own knowledge about the physical world which is sometimes rather different from the accepted scientific knowledge taught in schools. This thesis aims at investigating possible structures of commonsense reasoning about reversibility related to processes of interest to Science presented by students from two age-groups, 13/14 year old and 16/17 year old. The study has a theoretical framework based upon the scientific view of reversibility mainly related to Thermodynamics. It is also related to a conceptual, commonsense and developmental perspective taken from the literature, where reversibility is connected with different concepts such as causation, action, and conservation. Therefore, based upon this framework some very basic questions were asked to students about a selected number of phenomena. The empirical data was collected with the use of questionnaires. The sample consisted of two different age/instructional groups of students from England, Chile and Brazil. Factor Analysis was used to analyse the quantitative data. The qualitative data was analysed using a systemic network in which students' answers could be categorised. The main result of the quantitative analysis was a common three dimensional factor space of explanation for all groups with the dimensions relating to the ways in which the processes could be seen. They are respectively the contrast between 'can happen and cannot happen', 'needs an action and happens by itself, and 'has a goal and has no goal'. Phenomena can be located in this common space, but their position may vary for different age/instructional groups and for groups from different countries. The results of the qualitative analysis give a more detailed description of the way students see the reversibility of the processes and lend support to the quantitative results.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Geography, Enterprise, Mathematics and Science