Epistemic perspective on a conceptual evolution in physics at the secondary level
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The research deals with qualitative understanding of physics notions at the secondary level. It attempts to identify and to label, in the verbalizations of 12 to 16 year-old students, the tendencies that guide their cognitive itineraries through the exploration of problem-situations. The hypotheses of work were about models, conceptions and pprims. These last objects are seen, in DiSessa’s epistemological perspective, as a type of habit that influences the determination of links between the parameters of a problem. In other words, they coordinate logically and mathematically. Methodology is based on explicitation interviews. Five students were invited to share their evocations as they explored the logics of a computerized microworld. This microworld is programmed on the Interactive PhysicsTM software and is made of five different situations that involve Newton’s laws. An analysis of the five student’s verbalizations shows the existence of elements that play a part in modelisation and qualitative construction of comprehension as well as in its qualitative/quantitative articulation. Results indicate the presence of easily discernible coordinative habits. P-prims appear to play an important part in the construction of models and in the determination of links between the variables of a problem. Implications of the research are, among others, at the praxic level; it becomes possible to imagine sequences of learning and teaching physics based on the consideration of p-prims despite the implicit nature of these objects. This is a truly constructivist practice which establishes bridges between novice and expert knowledge.