Faculty of Education - Theses

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    How may the use of an abstract picture language affect student learning of energy and change
    Fry, Margaret C. ( 2002)
    The teaching of `Energy' as a topic in school science has often been found in the professional and research literature to be incoherent and scientifically inconsistent. Boohan and Ogborn's `Energy and change' booklets are an attempt to outline a new way for teachers in junior science classes to talk about processes that drive everyday changes from the weather to a car moving. They have sought, around the central idea that change is caused by differences, to use easy language and find coherent ways to describe thermodynamic ideas. They developed a set of abstract pictures to make these ideas intelligible. In this phenomenological classroom-based study the experiences afforded two Year 8 classes and their teachers in the same school in Melbourne by the use of Boohan and Ogborn's abstract picture language are investigated. One teacher took a didactic/empirical approach. He taught from his architectonic conceptual map of energy and followed the standard textbook development of forms of energy punctuated by the recommended experiments and teacher demonstrations to illustrate various changes in form. The abstract pictures were used principally in discussion as summative and interrogative tools towards a clarification of the teacher's conceptual overview. The other teacher took a co-constructive experiential approach. She did not use a class text. The Boohan and Ogborn materials were used as gestural tools in the sense of presenting the gist of the embodied understanding- purposes and meaning- of teacher and students. There were some teacher demonstrations but no practical work. The picture language icons functioned as mediating tools in class conversations towards a perception not that certain predefined teacher concepts had been attained but rather individuals had attained confidence to go on from that juncture. The students' responses to the picture language, in class interaction and group interviews, revealed major similarities across these teaching approaches. Many saw the abstract picture language to be a powerful and economic representational or iconic device that afforded them a means of engaging their own embodied socio-cultural understanding of energy and change phenomena. Some were confused by the purpose and meaning inscribed in the icons. Both teachers felt professionally challenged in the employment of the materials and only partly satisfied by their different enactments. Both were engaged and curious about the intellectual, sensational and aesthetic dimensions of their and their students' experience.