Learner error, affectual stimulation, and conceptual change



Pupils' expectation-related errors oppose the development of an appropriate scientific attitude towards empirical evidence and the learning of accepted science content, representing a hitherto neglected area of research in science education. In spite of these apparent drawbacks, a pedagogy is described that encourages pupils to allow their biases to improperly influence data collection and interpretation during practical work, in order to provoke emotional responses and subsequent engagement with the science. The usefulness of this approach is borne out quantitatively by findings from a series of three randomized experiments (n = 158) which show superior gains using this pedagogy that are still significant 2 and 3 years after the initial treatment. In addition, pupils who experienced more intense emotions during treatment demonstrated the most gains after 6 weeks. This research is one element of a large-scale study of expectation-related observation in school science whose findings impact generally on the proper consideration of empirical evidence and the learning of science content. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 47:151–173, 2010