The Role of Misconceptions in the Development of a Reliable Geological Knowledge. A Statistical Analysis of the Alternative Ideas of Earth Science Bachelor Students at Uppsala University.

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper


The pre-existing knowledge that Earth Science Bachelor students have when they are starting their University studies, is influential on the scientific knowledge that they will have built when they graduate. This thesis examines the alternative ideas that Uppsala University’s first, second and third year Earth Science Bachelor students have on basic geological topics, and whether it influences the knowledge that they develop. These topics include; the definition of density, Earth’s magnetic and gravity field, heat sources inside the Earth, location and movement of tectonic plates, volcanic andearthquake’s distribution on surface, isostasy, weathering and erosion, earth’s past and future, rock formation and the relevant age of continental and oceanic rocks. In order to process this, students’alternative ideas were assessed with a 20-item multiple choice questionnaire, which was formed online and delivered to all the Earth Science bachelor students of Uppsala University, at the end of the academic year. The questions were selected from the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) developed by Libarkin & Anderson (2006). The answers of the questionnaire were statistically analyzed with SPSS software and students’ scores were calculated. One way ANOVA was performed in order to determine if there is a statistically significant difference between students’ scores and the year ofstudies. The expected outcome was that third year students would have higher GCI scores/level ofconceptual understanding, compared to the first and second year students, and that first year students would have the lowest. The results revealed the presence of alternative ideas to all of the students, and that even that the year of studies is a factor that affects the GCI scores, students’ final scores, are relatively low. The Earth’s scientific knowledge is not acquired by the accumulation of relevant information through the years of studies, but the existence of alternative ideas imply a resistance to learning or an obstacle in learning science.

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