Eshach - IJSE 2009

An Analysis of Conceptual Flow Patterns and Structures in the Physics Classroom
International Journal of Science Education

Haim Eshach

The aim of the current research is to characterize the conceptual flow processes occurring in whole-class dialogic discussions with a high level of interanimation; in the present case, of a high-school class learning about image creation on plane mirrors. Using detailed chains of interaction and conceptual flow discourse maps—both developed for the purpose of this research—the classroom discourse, audio-taped and transcribed verbatim, was analyzed and three discussion structures were revealed: accumulation around budding foci concepts, zigzag between foci concepts, and concept tower. These structures as well as two additional factors, suggest the Two-Space Model of the whole class discussion proposed in the present article. The two additional factors are: (1) the teacher intervention; and (2) the conceptual barriers observed among the students, namely, materialistic thinking, and the tendency to attribute “unique characteristics” to optical devices. This model might help teachers to prepare and conduct efficient whole-class discussions which accord with the social constructivist perspective of learning.