Benchmarks for Science Literacy: Chapter 15 THE RESEARCH BASE


There is more research on student conceptions about The Physical Setting than in any other area. The Pfundt and Duit (1991) bibliography reveals that more than 70% of the published papers about students' conceptions in science were concerned with topics related to The Physical Setting benchmarks. Much research has focused on topics related to The Earth, Structure of Matter, Energy Transformations, and Motion. Topics related to The Universe and Forces of Nature have also received attention, but for the Processes That Shape the Earth, there is little research. Even in the frequently researched areas, relatively few studies report on long-term teaching interventions that try to improve students' ideas about the physical setting. The available literature on students' understanding of topics related to The Physical Setting has been reviewed in Driver, Guesne, & Tiberghien (1985). Conference proceedings on these topics include Driver & Millar (1985); Duit, Goldberg, & Niedderer (1992); Jung, Pfundt, & Rhoeneck (1981); Lijnse (1985); and Lijnse et al., (1990).


Research available on student understanding about The Universe focuses on their conceptions of the sun as a star and as the center of our planetary system. The ideas "the sun is a star" and "the earth orbits the sun" appear counter-intuitive to elementary-school students (Baxter, 1989; Vosniadou & Brewer, 1992) and are not likely to be believed or even understood in those grades (Vosniadou, 1991). Whether it is possible for elementary students to understand these concepts even with good teaching needs further investigation.