Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in Research in Science Education 34: 71–96, 2004.


Copyright © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Used by permission.


Abstract In this study, we defined and quantified the degree of cognitive conflict induced by a discrepant event from a cognitive perspective. Based on the scheme developed, we investigated the relationship between cognitive conflict and conceptual change, and the influences of students’ cognitive characteristics on conflict in learning the concept of density. Subjects were 171 seventh-grade girls from two city middle schools in Korea. Tests regarding logical thinking ability, field dependence/independence, and meaningful learning approach were administered. A preconception test and a test of responses to a discrepant event were also administered. Computer-assisted instruction was then provided to students as a conceptual change intervention. A conception test was administered as a posttest. In analyzing students’ responses to the discrepant event, seven types of responses were identified: Rejection, reinterpretation, exclusion, uncertainty, peripheral belief change, belief decrease, and belief change. These types were then ordered into four levels. The results indicated that there existed a significant correlation between cognitive conflict and conceptual change. t -test results revealed that there were statistically significant differences in the degree of cognitive conflict by the levels of students’ logical thinking ability and field dependence/independence. Meaningful learning approach, however, was found to have no statistically significant effect on cognitive conflict. Educational implications are discussed.