Without Conceptual Information Children Miss the Boat: Examining the Role of Explanations and Anomalous Evidence in Scientific Belief Revision

AbstractIn this study we investigated the role of conceptually rich explanations and anomalous evidence in children’s scientific belief revision. We also explored whether the order in which children experience these two learning opportunities influences belief revision ability. Five-year-old children were assigned to one of two conditions, where they either first received conceptual explanations about buoyancy and then observed anomalous data in a guided activity (Explanation-First), or the reverse (Anomalies-First). Results showed that (1) conceptually rich explanations lead to more accurate predictions about which objects sink and which float than anomalous data presentation, and (2) when explanations and anomalous data were combined, children’s correct predictions increased significantly from pre-test to post-test when they received conceptual information before the anomalous evidence (Explanation-First), but not in the opposite order (Anomalies-First). These results suggest that children are more likely to maintain their misconceptions when exposed to anomalies without prior instruction involving conceptually rich explanations.

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