“A study of social representations of quantum physics held by high school students through numerical and written word association tests” by Thaís Rafaela Hilger and Marco Antonio Moreira

[1]This paper presents findings of a preliminary research on possible social representations of quantum theory that might be shared by high school students. Its purpose was to identify and to characterize these social representations through Numerical and Written Word Association Tests (NWAT and WWAT) and multidimensional scaling (MDS) techniques of analysis. The understanding of such representations might provide hints of the influence of the media on the student’s ideas regarding scientific concepts. In school learning, these ideas are part of the students’ prior knowledge, which, when these ideas act as subsumes, can play a key role, not necessarily in the sense of helping, in the occurrence of meaningful learning of quantum mechanics(Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; 2013). The researchers of this research are Thaís Rafaela Hilger and Marco Antonio Moreira.

Within the research is not specified where is the school of the investigation. But it can be assumed that it was in Brazil since the text presents that the students lived in Brazil. During the investigation the students had to answer a questionnaire measuring their social representations, and knowledge of quantum theory. And two hundred and thirty eight high school students answered the questionnaire. Seventy seven of them were in their first year of high school, seventy two in the second year, and eighty seven in the last year, and all of them lived in the area of Porto Alegre, RS, and Brazil. The reason the student had to answer the questionnaire in the first semester of these three years of high school was because they don’t have specific contents related to quantum physics, that’s why is  the period stipulated for the application of the questionnaires. Also the students did not have any contact, in class, with the research topic before their participation in the investigation.The investigation was that they used two tests.

[2]The first test presented in the questionnaire (WWAT) consists of freely associating words to a given term, which allows for determining the semantic proximity between or among a set of the given concepts. The second test (NWAT) the respondent has to attribute a numerical value to each pair of the given words. The significant advantage of having chosen those tests resides in the fact that both of them allow for a large number of participants, and that they enable statistical analysis (Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; 2013).[3]Table 1 shows a sample that can clarify the presentation form of NWAT. In order to get the degree of proximity, in the case of the WWAT, it is necessary to relate the number of words the subject repeated and the position in which these terms are listed (Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; 2013).The students had to select a number to consider as the most related to quantum physics.

As stated earlier the questionnaire was answered by two hundred and thirty eight high school students. Seventy seven of them were in their first year of high school, seventy two in the second year, and eighty seven in the last year, and all of them lived in the area of Porto Alegre, RS, and Brazil. The three grades had a similar configuration for the NWAT.The figure 1, 2 and, 3 on the investigation shows the results of the first test of association. The three grades had a similar result. Figures 1 and 2 shows, the existence of two sets of words: terms associated to physics, in general in the left side and terms associated to everyday life in the right side.[4]According to the obtained data in this research, we can infer the power of influence of the media, as for example, the books whose excerpts were transcribed here, in these representations. There are several "alternative quantum physics" that are publicized in books, seminars, movies, and other means. As a result of this, social representations of quantum concepts are being constructed that might work as strong epistemological obstacles to the grasping of scientifically accepted meanings in this area. When we know that these are the current ideas and their influence upon the students' cognitive system, we can look for new paths to a potential change of this knowledge into its corresponding scientific equivalent. Nevertheless, what we have presented here is an initial investigation, and there are also other studies being carried out that also point out to the existence of representations of quantum physics, which gives grounds for the need of more research on this area. Thus, it is relevant to understand the students' universe as a means to get hints to improve the pedagogical practice (Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; 2013).

[5]Physics is linked with psychology in many ways. Statistics offers linkage between the two that are amply visible. Human nature, behavior, response (group and individual), modeling etc. Physics can be designated as hardware part. Psychology may be called as software running on its (Ahmed, 2016). It’s very important to know that learning is essential to our psychological development. If someone fall behind on learning and receive poor information it can lead to negative results in the future.  [6]Nowadays, many terms related to science, as quantum physics, for instance, are approached in society so that they can possibly trigger the student's interest on the subject. However, in this case, the student does not individually construct his/her conceptions of a world to which he/she does not have direct access, as it happens with misconceptions or alternative conceptions. Then, social representations emerge and they are socially constructed as a response of some particular groups to the flood of information and interpretations that attempt at transforming knowledge, which has been produced in a reified universe, in this case, the universe of Physics, into something familiar. Because of the increasing amount of dissemination of texts, movies, and materials, which present alternative interpretations of quantum theory, diverse interpretations of this theory can arise. The focus of social representations allows for the study of these ideas, their structure, as well as how they develop and are shared (Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; 2013).

 

 

References

Ahmed, S. (2016). “What is the connection between physics and psychology?”Quora. Retrieved 6 September 2017, from https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-connection-between-physics-and-psychology

 

Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; (2013). “A study of social representations of quantum physics held by high school students through numerical and written word association tests”. Revista Electrónica de Investigación en Educación en Ciencias, 852-61. Recuperado de http://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=273327598005

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; (2013). “A study of social representations of quantum physics held by high school students through numerical and written word association tests”

[2]Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; (2013). “A study of social representations of quantum physics held by high school students through numerical and written word association tests”

[3]Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; (2013). “A study of social representations of quantum physics held by high school students through numerical and written word association tests”

[4]Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; (2013). “A study of social representations of quantum physics held by high school students through numerical and written word association tests”

[5]Ahmed, S. (2016). “What is the connection between physics and psychology?”

[6]Hilger, T R; Moreira, M A; (2013). “A study of social representations of quantum physics held by high school students through numerical and written word association tests”

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