Learning about energy: The influence of alternative frameworks, cognitive levels, and closed-mindedness



This article reports on a two-part study designed (a) to find the relation, if any, between junior high school students' alternative frameworks on energy held prior to instruction and their cognitive level of operations, either preformal or formal, and (b) to determine the relation, if any, between junior and senior high school students' success or failure in learning about energy and their alternative frameworks, their levels of cognitive operations, and their tendencies toward open- or closed-mindedness. In Part 1, we found no significant relation between junior high school students' prior alternative frameworks on energy and their cognitive levels of operations. In Part 2, we found that significantly better learning outcomes were achieved by students who had higher cognitive level scores. We also found that the extent to which students succeeded in learning the energy concept was a function of their prior knowledge. That is, certain alternative frameworks held prior to instruction may have facilitated the learning process. Finally, we found that the two groups (i.e., those who succeeded in learning about energy and those who did not) could not be distinguished according to scores in open- or closed-mindedness. These finding reinforce the assumption that learning is more domain specific than earlier theorists believed.