Brainstorming to concept maps: Developing ontological categories for energy

Year: 2001

Author: Chittleborough, Gail, Hawkins, Chris, Treagust, David

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Energy is an abstract concept that is poorly understood at the middle school level. Traditionally the use of imposed definitions and terminology, which have little relevance for students, has given the topic of energy a reputation for being boring and dry. Students' preconceived understanding of the energy concept, derived from their own experiences was the starting point of this study. Students were required to analyse their own ideas on energy, brainstorm a variety of fields relating to the topic of energy and construct concept maps and Venn diagrams to represent their understanding. The schools' policy of integrating lap top computers in middle school provided additional tools to achieve the objectives of the science unit on energy. Guided development of students' schema from very specific examples to general categories helped to develop new ontological schema in the students' mental organisation of their knowledge and ideas relating to energy. This constructivist approach formed the groundwork to the students learning processes which were dependent on the social interaction of students, students listening to each other, working as a team, the visual record, the linking of concepts and ideas, and the integration of new ideas with their existing ideas.