A comparative cross-cultural study of the prevalence and nature of misconceptions in physics amongst English and Chinese undergraduate students

Abrahams, I., Homer, M., Sharpe, R. and Zhou, M. (2015) A comparative cross-cultural study of the prevalence and nature of misconceptions in physics amongst English and Chinese undergraduate students. Research in Science & Technological Education, 33 (1). pp. 111-130. ISSN 0263-5143

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Background: Despite the large body of literature regarding student misconceptions there has been relatively little cross-cultural research to directly compare the prevalence of common scientific misconceptions amongst students from different cultural backgrounds. Whilst previous research does suggest the international nature of many misconceptions there is little evidence as to whether the prevalence of such common misconceptions varies from culture to culture. Purpose: To examine the prevalence and the reasons for some of the previously studied scientific misconceptions amongst a group of English and Chinese undergraduate students so as to ascertain whether there is a cultural difference. Such a finding could help to identify teaching approaches in either country that are more effective in reducing the prevalence of common student misconceptions. Sample: The study involved a convenience sample of 40 undergraduate students – 20 English and 20 Chinese drawn equally from two universities in the North of England – whose formal science education ended at age 16 and 15 respectively. Design and methods: The study employed semi-structured interview schedule containing eight questions. Results: Whilst similar misconceptions existed amongst both English and Chinese undergraduates their prevalence was significantly higher amongst the English students (Chinese scored 27.7% higher, p < 0.01, r = 0.64). It also emerged that when such misconceptions exist English and Chinese undergraduates explain these by drawing upon very similar, erroneous, analogies and these appear to be only nominally culturally independent in that they are based on globally shared everyday experiences. Conclusion: If the prevalence of misconceptions amongst English undergraduates is to be reduced, research into the way in which specific areas of physics are taught in China might prove beneficial. It might also be possible to reduce the prevalence of misconceptions in both countries if a better understanding could be developed of how, and why, undergraduates use certain, erroneous, analogies.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: School of Teacher Development
Depositing User: Stephen Macdonald
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2020 16:36
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 16:36
URI: https://bgro.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/707

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