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Abstract Title: Teleology as Placeholder: The Coordination of Teleology and Mechanism In Experts’ and Novices’ Physics Explanations
Abstract: Researchers disagree over students' use of teleological (goal-directed) explanations in physics (e.g., 'atoms bond with each other to fill electron shells.'). Some view teleology as a misconception held by novices (Keleman, 1999a,b), inferior to experts' mechanistic reasoning. Others follow Aristotle in treating these as complementary modes of scientific inquiry (Talanquer, 2007).  Researchers on both sides adhere to a priori commitments, rather than empirical data of learners' and scientists' explanations.  This poster presents a microgenetic analysis of 20 interviews with both novices and experts as they spontaneously constructed explanations of the behavior of Newton's cradle.  Analysis reveals that (1) experts and novices alike used teleological reasoning, and productively so, as a placeholder (Carey, 2004) for a mechanistic account, and (2) the difference between experts and novices was not in which mode of reasoning they used, but in how explicitly they coordinated both perspectives.  Implications for research and instruction will be discussed.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Luke Conlin
Stanford University, Graduate School of Education
1919 Cooley Ave.
East Palo Alto, CA 94303