The expression -ideas previas- (Spanish for previous ideas) refers to what in the science education research literature is called misconceptions or alternative conceptions. According to the authors of Ideas Previas, recent progress in understanding prior ideas that students bring to the science classroom has been a breakthrough for several reasons. It offers insight about the foundations students use for building understanding, it allows the teacher to clarify the problem of constructing and transforming conceptual understanding in ways that reflect the processes of science, and, most importantly, it places the student in the center of the learning and teaching process - leading to a very different approach to the teaching of science. By informing and involving both English- and Spanish-speaking teachers in the conceptual change process of their students, Ideas Previas provides teachers with the tools needed to guide students in learning difficult science concepts.
The major goal is to allow teachers to take into account students' prior science ideas as a point of reference for planning, development of learning strategies, and assessment.
To increase awareness of alternative conceptions documented by research as barriers to learning scientific conceptions.
To support the implementation of successful strategies for understanding difficult concepts and visualizing complex structures.
Target Student Population:
The resource targets both English- and Spanish-speaking pre-service and practicing science faculty for primary, secondary, university, and adult levels. Text for the materials is presented in both English and Spanish. The Spanish version is more polished than the work displayed in English.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
The material is organized by theme and subthemes of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Therefore, knowledge of the hierarchical organization of these disciplines is helpful to successful searching of the database.
Type of Material:
This database of references from the research literature portrays both scientific and naive ideas commonly held by students prior to instruction. The ambition of the collection is to link specific ideas to appropriate pedagogical strategies for developing better scientific expertise.
The collection editors aim to serve teachers and researchers by linking specific scientific and naive ideas commonly held by students to appropriate pedagogical strategies for developing better scientific expertise.
teachers can access the database during the planning of instruction in order to be aware of probable alternative conceptions their students might hold.
upon confirming the existence of naive ideas, teachers can again consult the database for suggested methods of assisting their students in transforming their understanding of difficult concepts.
teachers interested in conducting action research in their classrooms could become aware of areas of the discipline for which alternative conceptions have not been identified, thus steps can be taken to document student ideas in these gap areas.
A browser and the ability to navigate using a search engine with frames is required. Some documents automatically download in Adobe Reader format.
Evaluation and Observation
The idea of having a database of research on prior ideas students bring to science class is outstanding. Research shows that science instruction should help students become aware of their erroneous ideas. New teachers who do not yet know how their students think will especially benefit. However, research also shows that even experienced faculty are often unaware of erroneous ideas students hold about the science content taught. The references to the research are comprehensive and include work from prominent investigators worldwide.
By their nature, alternative conceptions in science mark inherently difficult science content to teach and learn. They are usually prevalent and persistent and require sustained cognitive effort for students to overcome.
Often the teaching learning process is complicated because many of the alternative conceptions are related to students? lack of understanding of underlying concepts that form the foundation for advanced learning.
Quality criteria were developed to determine which references to consult in general, which of the particular studies reported in them to consider, and which of the erroneous ideas could be defined as an alternative conception. By carefully adhering to these criteria, the resulting content of the database was of educational significance.
A Temas y subtemas (topics and subtopics) matrix includes key areas of the biology, chemistry, and physics curriculum taught in various countries and coincides with professional scientific organizations and also aligns with the US National Science Education Standards.
The educational levels are identified by the nomenclature used in Mexico,
but a chart relating these to the corresponding range of ages is provided to assist teachers of other Spanish-speaking countries to find the equivalent level in their respective school systems.
The database proposes to include a collection of previous ideas from published sources organized by discipline themes and by age level as well as links to pedagogical strategies. Although the collection of alternative ideas is extensive and presents an accurate review of important research, a few gaps exist. A mechanism for users to suggest additional references would quickly fill those gaps. On the other hand, the links to pedagogical strategies are nearly void to the point of being useless. The authors might want to consider a more narrow focus without the pedagogical strategies component.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Knowing students' previous ideas is an important issue for the development of science teaching programs and books, as well as for individual teachers who develop teaching strategies and identify students? conceptual progress. This knowledge is also important for researchers who, analyzing students' representations about natural phenomena and scientific concepts, propose forms of interpreting and changing them. This database is a potentially crucial tool for science teacher professional development and for graduate program courses designed to help science teachers become researchers.
Some of the pedagogic strategies reviewed are out-of-date and not representative of the best research currently available. A few spelling errors in English - Introducction, Secundary, Hereditacy - would easily be corrected by a webmaster if a mechanism were available for users to provide feedback (a link to email the webmaster,
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The database is easy to navigate and the database organization will make sense to most users. The reviews are clear and concise.
A reviewer could not get the -inicio de la pagina- (top of page) links to work. This could frustrate teachers who want to navigate quickly back to a previous part of the text. On some pages, there were round buttonlike icons alongside the text, some of which did function to jump up to the top of the page.
A similar problem was experienced with the -Indice- (Index) at the top of the section on the -Ideas Previas Caracterizacion- (characterization of alternative conceptions). These should have been hot links, but they did not work to navigate to different sections of the text. The feature did work well, however, on other pages.
Some of the navigation links move one from English to the Spanish version and it is difficult to navigate back to the English version for those who do not read Spanish.
The pedagogic strategies search function includes a note showing which topics are not empty sets - but the relationship between the list and the required searches to find the actual reviews of the strategies is confusing.
The authors might wish to include a more complete reference of the investigators and sources with the aggregate list of pedagogical strategies. It would be useful to be able to search the collection by investigator as well as by idea, discipline, and age level.
Other Issues and Comments:
This project represents a hugely important endeavor. We hope that the database will continue to grow and develop with broad international participation. An E-mail Us link would make it possible for users to contribute to the database.