Learning to understand and analyze the systems concepts present in many different scientific phenomena entails interpreting a variety of types of complex causal relationships. Yet students tend to hold preconceptions and misconceptions about causality that hinder learning and systematically generate misconceptions in science content. In this project we studied the assumptions that students brought to their learning in ecosystems, density, air pressure and other concepts. We considered mismatches between students' and scientific models to identify and examine points of difficulty. We worked with teachers to develop and assess intervention materials designed to help students beyond these points of difficulty. This work resulted in a list of default assumptions, a taxonomy of causal models, and an approach to teaching the underlying causality called RECASTing (which includes RECAST activities and discussions.) It also led to the initial versions of the Causal Patterns in Science Curriculum. Click here for a summary of research findings. With further funding, we assessed the transfer of understanding of causal forms to topics with isomorphic and non-isomorphic causal forms and to science learning more generally. Persistence of learning was examined later in the same school year and again two years later. The findings resulted in revisions to the Understandings of Consequence curriculum units. 
The Understandings of Consequence Project was supported by the National Science Foundation, grant #REC-0106988 and REC-9725501 to Tina Grotzer and David Perkins. All opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Project Info

Start Date: 1998