Adrian Twissell


Developing abstract conceptual knowledge is often problematic for learners because the phenomenon of interest cannot be observed. Knowledge is a product of learned theories and the outcome of learners’ practice. Through practice, such as the modelling and simulating of abstract phenomena, learners translate representations, for example diagrams and schematics into other forms such as physical models. Through this process conceptual change in the learner’s knowledge schema develops understanding and expertise enabling its application in new situations. This case study research explored learners’ perceptions of change in understanding during a two year General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) Design and Technology: Electronic Products course. The findings indicate that changes in conceptual understanding occur through the need to gradually engage with the practicalities of modelling and simulating the phenomena of interest. Learners were shown to adjust understanding from an initial theoretical focus, to a more pragmatic view of knowledge grounded in their own observations of simulated phenomena. Learners’ dispositional attitudes to learning were found to support the nature of learning activities encountered during the period of the research. The discussion concludes with a model of sustainable learning based around the four ‘R’s: relate, reinterpret, reflect and revise. The model describes specific learner actions proposed as necessary in support of the development of cognitive skills and learning autonomy within a conceptual change view of learning.


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conceptual change, sustainable learning, learning journey, procedural knowledge, learning disposition

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