F. Cañada1, M.I. Santos1, M.J. Arévalo1, M.V. Gil1, J. Cubero1, F. Mora2

1University of Extremadura (SPAIN)
2Colegio Público Los Glacis (SPAIN)
Alternative conceptions in science related topics that are held by students seem to be one important drawback in the teaching-learning process. Since these notions might result from students attempting to understand and logically explain previous experiences in their world, they tend to be strongly ingrained and resistant to be changed. Considering the constructivism theory, that understands the learning as a combination and reorganization of new ideas with notions already acquired, it may be useful for teachers to consider misconceptions as a base to the significant learning of science.

In this context, we present a study addressed to meet the alternative conceptions that the third cycle of primary school students have in astronomy, and more specifically of the Sun-Earth system. With this goal in mind, a sample of fifty students has been evaluated. At this level, they should have a structured knowledge of the Earth and the Universe.

The methodology followed in this study includes three steps: (1) evaluation of the preconceptions related to the Sun-Earth system and the scientific reasons for Earth’s seasons. The questionnaire designed by De Manuel, and adapted to the level of students, has been used as instrument. (2) Instruction about the accepted conceptions of the considered topic and practical activity based in modeling the Sun-Earth system. These instructional materials are addressed to make the students predict and explain day, night and season phenomena, as well as, to confront alternative conceptions. (3) Post-evaluation to analyze either the prevalence or the overcoming of the misconceptions after the intervention.

The analysis of the results arising from the initial evaluation shows that most of the students are able to understand and to apply the conception of the Earth elliptical orbit in its translational movement around the sun, which is not exactly in the ellipse center. However, most of the students misunderstand the reason for the existence of the four seasons. They try to explain seasonal changes by the differences in the distance between the sun and the Earth.
The results coming out from the final evaluation process show the usefulness of the proposed lesson (theoretical and practical) in order to overcome the alternative conceptions of the causes of seasons. Once the intervention is done, most of the students are able to use the tilt of Earth's axis to explain the change of the seasons.

1. Bello Garcés, S (2007). Cambio conceptual ¿una o varias teorías?: Reseñas del Seminario sobre cambio conceptual. México: UNAM, Facultad de Química
2. Driver, R. (1988). “Un enfoque constructivista para el desarrollo del currículo en ciencias”. Enseñanza de las ciencias, (4), 3-15.
3. De Manuel, J. (1995). “¿Por qué hay veranos e inviernos? Representaciones de estudiantes (12-18) y de futuros maestros sobre algunos aspectos del modelo Sol-Tierra”. Enseñanza de las ciencias, (13), 227-236.

This work has been supported by Project ACCVII-21 (2011) from University of Extremadura.