A. Menargues Marcilla1, R. Limiñana Morcillo1, J.R. Díez Lopez2, R. Colomer Barbera1, D. Zuazagoitia Rey- Baltar2

1University of Alicante (SPAIN)
2University of Basque Country (SPAIN)
The origins of scientific misconceptions are tied to a varied set of personal experiences, which include observation of the immediate environment, culture, language and previous instruction at school. The usual teaching methodologies do not take into account the existence of these ideas, underestimating the influence of these misconceptions may have on learning. In all education levels, students already have a constituted empirical knowledge and hence, those obstacles accumulated in their daily life have to be taken into account in order to promote meaningful science learning. In the Spanish Primary and Secondary Education curriculum, the topic on the Seasons and the Sun / Earth Model is included; however, future Primary Education teachers, who are supposed to have learnt these topics during their secondary education and who also will teach this subject in the future, present scientific misconceptions about these. In this work we present some misconceptions related to one of these topics (cycles and symmetries of Sun’s movement as observed from the Earth) and we also assess to what extent these alternative ideas (or misconceptions) can be overcome during the training period of pre-service primary teachers at the University, using an oriented-research (i.e. inquiry-based) teaching approach. The study was carried out at two universities with a total of 280 prospective teachers at University A and 73 prospective teachers at University B. University A carried out an oriented-research teaching / learning methodology of 40 hours duration and 42 activities in total, and University B conducted an inquiry-based teaching sequence consisting of 11 activities and a total duration of 8 hours, addressing the same research questions. Initial and final knowledge level attained by students was assessed using a pre-test / post-test questionnaire with questions about the apparent movement of the Sun, written in everyday life words. We used chi-square test to compare the percentage of students of the two universities that responded correctly to these questions. Results obtained showed that the initial level of knowledge (i.e. pre-test) was very low or practically zero (in 10 of the 13 items in the questionnaire the percentage of correct answers was equal to or less than 5%), and almost any difference between students of the two universities was found. On the contrary, results of the post-test showed that the level of knowledge reached by the students from University A was significantly higher compared to that attained by students from University B (only in three of the 13 items we did not find significant differences between universities). Although students of University B improved in the post-test results, we found that the level of knowledge reached by the students of university A were significantly higher. Post-test results revealed that a significant higher percentage of students of University B had not overcome the misconceptions about seasons and Sun cycles and symmetries, which they had from the beginning. This result leads us to think that to learn any science idea in depth, which is known to be very important to overcome spontaneous ideas, the time that dedicate to it is of paramount importance. These results support that the study of science subjects in depth should be prioritized, rather than addressing a greater number of subjects in a more superficial way. Real learning takes time.