Emergece Project (Chi)

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Learning about Emergence and Heat Transfer

Michelene T. H. Chi

Summary Table

Study 1

PIs Michelene T. H. Chi
Other Contributers
Study Start Date May 2008
Study End Date October 2008
LearnLab Site
LearnLab Course Chemistry
Number of Students
Total Participant Hours TBD
DataShop N/A


The majority of learning studied within PSLC has been of the enrichment kind (Carey, 1991). Enrichment occurs when a student has missing knowledge components, and learning consists of adding knowledge components. Many PSLC studies focus on optimal methods and conditions for adding knowledge components that result in robust learning. However, there is a completely different kind of learning that few PSLC studies have addressed -— learning of the conceptual change kind. Conceptual change occurs when a student’s existing ideas conflict with to-be-learned material, usually in science domains (Vosniadou, 2004). It is customary to assume that the existing knowledge is incorrect or misconceived and that the to-be-learned information is correct by some normative standard. Although conceptual change can perhaps be modeled using canonical PSLC mechanisms of knowledge component construction, strengthening, and feature refinement, such a model would fail to explain why these mechanisms do not work when existing knowledge conflicts with new knowledge. Nor would it suggest how to alter the situation so that these mechanisms will work. The failure to achieve conceptual change in the face of robust misconceptions has been a problem for decades. The proposed study would extend the learning framework of PSLC by incorporating new information about conceptual change.

The purpose of the proposed study is to test an intervention designed to promote deep understanding of science processes about which many students hold robust misconceptions. The intervention, based on our previous research, involves introducing an unfamiliar type of process, called emergent, and differentiating it from a familiar type of process, called direct. This introduction and differentiation, called schema training, will occur in the context of a diffusion lesson in a college-level chemistry course. Our study will determine whether students who receive the schema training understand subsequent instruction on heat transfer better than students who do not receive the training.

Background & Significance


Research questions



Further Information


Annotated Bibliography


Future Plans

  1. To be added