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How Young Children Understand Electric Circuits: Prediction, explanation and exploration

[journal article]

Glauert, Esme Bridget

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Abstract This paper reports findings from a study of young children’s views about electric circuits. Twenty eight children aged 5 and 6 were interviewed. They were shown examples of circuits and asked to predict whether they would work and explain why. They were then invited to try out some of the circuit examples or make circuits of their own choosing. Children expressed a variety of views about the connections needed in a circuit, offered different kinds of explanation and showed differing levels of competence in circuit making. The range of responses showed similarities to those of older students found in previous research. The relationship between practical competence, prediction and explanation was not straightforward. For example children with similar levels of practical competence made different predictions or offered different kinds of explanation. Analysis of the circuits children chose to construct suggested influences of existing competence and knowledge. In particular some children tested out circuit examples about which they had been unsure during the interview while others explored circuit connections more generally. Findings underline the importance of drawing on a variety of evidence in assessing young children’s understandings of electric circuits. They indicate that young children may offer views about electric circuits not unlike those of older children and adults with similar experience. Finally there was some suggestion that the interview procedure may have acted as an instructive stimulus in helping children to become more conscious of their own views and reflect on their thinking in the light of further evidence.
Classification Education and Pedagogics
Document language English
Publication Year 2009
Page/Pages p. 1025-1047
Journal International Journal of Science Education, 31 (2009) 8
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)