Russell, Terry and Dorothy Watt


Liverpool University Press

ISBN 0-85323-476-0
Price: 7.00

Grade focus: K-2, 3-5

This report is one of a series developed by the Primary SPACE Project (Science Processes and Concept Exploration), based jointly at the Department of Education, University of Liverpool, and the Center for Educational Studies, King's College, London, UK. The series describes studies conducted by researchers and teachers to understand elementary school children's ideas in particular science concept areas and how students modify their ideas as the result of brief teaching interventions.

This report contains: (1) an overview of a pilot study conducted to explore student ideas about growth; (2) a description of student ideas about growth before they received any formal experiences relating to these concepts; (3) a description of the teaching intervention that was intended to encourage students to develop their ideas; (4) a description of student ideas after the teaching intervention; and (5) a summary of the research findings. Appendices include brief descriptions of the interview tasks that were used to explore student ideas and of the activities within the teaching interventions. Excerpts from student interviews and samples of student drawings and written work appear throughout the report.

The research specifically explores student ideas about the germination and growth of broad beans and mung beans, the sources of the new plant material, and the conditions necessary for plant growth; and about changes inside the egg of the cabbage white butterfly and the necessary conditions and the mechanism for growth of the caterpillar. Student ideas about the growth inside the eggs of butterflies and the growth of caterpillars were elicited only before the intervention. Some findings include: Both before and after the intervention, few students thought of plant growth as a process in which materials outside the plant were incorporated into the growing plant. Few students suggested some transformation of the contents of a butterfly egg into a structurally refined animal; the majority thought that a structurally complete but miniature animal was feeding on the support system within the egg.

Other titles in the series include: The Earth in Space; Evaporation and Condensation; Light; Materials; Processes of Life; Rocks, Soil, and Minerals; and Sound.