Each of the first four volumes provides 25 probes with easy-to-follow steps for uncovering and addressing students’ ideas by promoting learning through conceptual change instruction. Probes cover topics such as physical, life, and Earth and space science; the nature of science; and unifying themes. Each volume on page 23 provides topic-specific probes. These invaluable books include teacher materials that explain content, identify links to standards, and suggest grade-appropriate ways to present materials so students learn the concepts accurately. Teachers, professional development coordinators, and college science and preservice faculty will find these resources essential and exciting.
The purpose of this assessment probe is to elicit beginning ideas about forces. The probe is designed to reveal whether students generally identify forces as pushes and pulls.
Pushes and pulls
Yolanda has the best answer: “I think a force is either a push or a pull.” By basic definition, a force is a push or pull. Some students might think there is a third type of force, which they sometimes refer to as a “holding force”; it is different from a push or pull and “holds” resting objects in place. For example, they might think that a book resting on a table is being neither pulled on nor pushed. In this instance, the pulling force (gravity) and the pushing force (the upward force exerted by the table on the book) are balanced.
This probe is best used at the elementary and middle school levels, although it may be useful in determining whether high school students still believe in a “holding force.” Young children are just beginning to learn about forces, and so this probe is particularly helpful because it introduces them to “push and pull” vocabulary as a prerequisite to describing how forces affect motion. With very young children, who may not be ready to understand how an object at rest is affected by forces, you might consider eliminating the last distracter (Violet’s response).
K–4 Position and Motion of Objects
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 1993. Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 2009. Benchmarks for science literacy online. www.project2061.org/publications/ bsl/online
Clement, J. 1993. Using bridging analogies and anchoring intuitions to deal with students’ preconceptions in physics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 30 (10): 1241–1257.
Driver, R., A. Squires, P. Rushworth, and V. WoodRobinson. 1994. Making sense of secondary science: Research into children’s ideas. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Erickson, G., and E. Hobbs. 1978. The developmental study of student beliefs about force concepts. Paper presented to the annual convention of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education. Ontario, Canada (June 2).
Minstrell, J. 1982. Explaining the “at rest” condition of an object. The Physics Teacher 20: 10–14.
National Research Council (NRC). 1996. National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Shevlin, J. 1989. Children’s prior conceptions of force aged 5–11 and their relevance to attainment target 10 of the national curriculum of science. M.Ed. thesis, University of Leeds, UK.