Frank on the stability of students' thinking

Brian W. Frank

Multiple Conceptual Coherences in the Speed Tutorial: Micro-processes of Local Stability
Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2010) - Volume 1, Full Papers, pp.873-881
Published on line at arXiv:1008.3258v1

Researchers working within knowledge-in-pieces traditions have often employed observational approaches to investigate micro-processes of learning. There is growing evidence from this line of work that students' intuitive thinking about physical phenomena is characterized more so by its diversity and flexibility than its uniformity and robustness. This characterization implies that much of the dynamics of students' thinking over short timescales involve processes that stabilize local patterns of thinking, later destabilize them, and allow other patterns to form. This kind of "change" may only involve dynamics by which the system of intuitive knowledge settles into various states without changing the system structure itself. I describe a case study in which a group of college students shift their thinking about motion several times during a collaborative learning activity. Instead of focusing on micro-processes of change, I describe these dynamics in terms of mechanisms that contribute to local stability of students' conceptual coherences.