Russell, Terry, Ken Longden, and Linda McGuigan


Liverpool University Press
ISBN 0-85323-147-8
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.

The report contains: (1) a brief summary of previous research into student ideas about materials; 2) an overview of a pilot study conducted to explore student ideas about materials; (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 from student interviews and samples of student drawings and written work appear throughout the report.

The research specifically explored student descriptions of materials; student concepts of solid, liquid, and gas; and student ideas about origins and transformations of materials. Some findings include: The task of classifying objects according to what they are made of was challenging to many students. When asked to classify objects in terms of what they were made of, students often used other criteria such as what the objects would be used for. Student knowledge of manufactured objects was limited. For example, before the intervention, only a few students indicated an awareness of the origins of cotton thread in plant material. Gases were not as familiar to younger students as were materials in their solid and liquid states but seemed to become more so as children aged. After the intervention, there was a significant increase in the number of students who thought of air as a gas.

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