SPACE Project Research Report: Electricity
The Science Processes and Concepts Exploration (SPACE) project research report on Electricity was published in 1991 by Liverpool University Press. The SPACE research was conducted at two centres: at the University of Liverpool and King’s College, London, with Wynne Harlen and Paul Black as joint directors. Each centre took responsibility for research in particular concepts and for producing the report of the work. In the case of Electricity, the research was conducted from King’s and the authors were Jonathan Osborne, Paul Black, Maureen Smith and John Meadows.
The research took place between March and July 1988. To guide the research on the students' understanding of electricity, a list of related concepts was compiled. These ideas included, for example: that electricity can move or flow; it is required for a wide range of devices; electrical devices require two connections with wire to a battery to function; some materials allow electricity to pass and other do not; etc. In addition to exploring the extent to which students develop such ideas from their experiences, the research aimed to address questions about: How disparate are the ideas about electricity held by many students? What development is observable in students across the age range (5 to 11 years)? What is the potential of planned intervention for the development of students' ideas about electricity?
The elicitation activities were designed to focus and orientate students' thinking about specific phenomena related to these ideas about electricity, such as lighting a bulb and using a switch. Students were then asked to draw and write answers to specific questions about the phenomena. The next phase was intervention in which activities directly addressed the need for two connections to an electrical power source, conductors and non- conductors of electricity, uses of electricity for heating, lighting, moving and making magnets, and making electricity in power stations. This was followed by further interviews so that pre- and post-intervention ideas could be compared.
The report provides a large number of examples of students' ideas, both pre-and post-intervention. As well as the qualitative data, the results were analysed by frequency of response using network analysis for specific ideas. Also reported are the statistical significance of changes in ideas for infants (age 5 -7), lower junior (age 7 – 9) and upper junior students (aged 9-11). Complementing overall findings, there is a section analysing changes in the ideas of individual students. Appendices provide full details of the activities, interview schedules, materials used in the activities and the classroom intervention strategies.
1. Previous research
2. Electricity - Methodology
3. Pre-intervention elicitation work
4. Children’s ideas about electricity
5. The intervention phase
6. The effect of the intervention
7. Changes in individual children
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