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Conceptual Change  

Lucia Mason

Individuals of all ages have misconceptions about phenomena of the natural and physical world. They may think, for example, that summer is hotter because the Earth is closer to the Sun, and it is colder in winter because the Earth is farther away from the Sun. This explanation is not compatible with the scientific explanation of the phenomenon. Scientific learning often implies the revision of naïve conceptions, or conceptual change, which is not a quick and easy process. Researchers have addressed the question of the nature of conceptual change in terms of what the acquisition of new science knowledge entails when students hold misconceptions and need to revise their mental representations. Various approaches have been proposed to account for the mechanisms that underlie conceptual change and to draw implications for teaching and learning processes. For some decades conceptual change was only examined from a purely cognitive perspective (“cold” conceptual change), while more recently motivational and emotional aspects (“warm” conceptual change) have received attention. Research findings indicate that individual differences in misconceived prior knowledge, along with differences in achievement goals, self-efficacy, interest, and epistemic beliefs, as well as differences in the emotions experienced in learning contexts, are all associated with conceptual change. More recently, research has challenged the idea that misconceptions disappear permanently after conceptual change has taken place. Previously acquired, incorrect information still competes with the newly acquired correct information. The executive function of inhibition seems to be involved when naïve and scientific conceptions co-exist in the learner’s memory and the latter is used to produce a correct answer. Further research is needed on the role of inhibitory control in relation to learning concepts and affective states during scientific learning.


World Language Education and the Pedagogical Imperative  

James P. Lantolf

L. S. Vygotsky proposed that human consciousness entails the dialectical interaction between memory, attention, perception, emotion and motivation, imagination, and rational thought, organized in large part through language, or more appropriately, communicative meaning-making activity. The development of consciousness occurs more or less spontaneously (i.e., unplanned) in everyday life activity and in more systematically organized and intentionally planned educational activity. An important component of the developmental process is the conceptual knowledge that cultures make available to their through various types of social relations. In everyday life, this knowledge is largely empirically based, while in formally organized educational development conceptual knowledge is highly systematic and much more readily recontextualizable than is everyday knowledge. Academic concepts are derived from rigorous research and as such reveal processes and components of material reality that are otherwise hidden from direct empirical observation by our senses. The responsibility of presenting and explaining academic concepts to students in educational activity is carried out by specially prepared individuals—teachers—who engage students in intentionally planned and (hopefully) rigorous interactions, mediated largely, though not exclusively, through language. According to the pedagogical imperative, as it relates to instruction in world languages, relevant high quality theoretical and conceptual knowledge must be made pedagogically viable; that is, understandable to both teachers and learners and it must be useable by learners to mediate their generation of meaning in practical communicative activities. The knowledge must be presented in a memorable way, usually in a holistic visual representation rather than traditional verbally based rules of thumb and learners must be guided through appropriate prompts, clues, and hints provided primarily by teachers, but at times also by peers, to internalize this knowledge so that it becomes functional in communicative practices. Finally, recognition must be given to the fact that development of any kind, including that provoked by educational practice, must not only take account of the participants (students and teachers) intellect, it must also profoundly consider the emotional aspects of the educational process as teachers and learners engage in the dialectic process captured by Vygotsky in the Russian term, obuchenie, or teaching–learning, whereby teachers and learners engage in a process of mutual mediation.