Osborne, Jonathan, Paul Black, Maureen Smith, and John Meadows


Liverpool University Press

ISBN 0-85323-466-3
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) a summary of previous research into children's ideas about light and vision; (2) an overview of a pilot study conducted to explore student ideas about light; (3) a description of student ideas before the teaching intervention; (4) a description of the teaching intervention that was intended to encourage students to develop their ideas; (5) a description of student ideas after the teaching intervention; and (6) 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 are included throughout the report from student interviews as well as samples of student drawings and written work.

This research specifically explored student ideas about sources of light, student representations of light, and student understanding of vision. Some findings include: The intervention had very little effect on lower elementary students. Upper elementary students showed some change to a more sophisticated understanding, but most still did not use scientific models of light and vision. For example, after the intervention, there was a decrease in the number of students that provided no explanation for vision, thought that the eye sees without anything linking it to the object, or showed a link from the eye to the object to explain vision. However, there was an increase in the number of students who showed light going first to the eye and then to the object to show vision. The report concludes that understanding how we see objects that are not primary sources of light is an area of conceptual difficulty for elementary school students.

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