Misunderstanding Emergent Causal Mechanism in Natural Selection

Michelene T. H. Chi, Agnieszka Kosminska Kristensen and Rod D. Roscoe

in Evolution Challenges

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730421
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949557 | DOI:
Misunderstanding Emergent Causal Mechanism in Natural Selection

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  • Developmental Psychology


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Learning new concepts and ideas typically requires that the learners activate and bring to bear some prior knowledge for interpreting and assimilating the new ideas. This prior knowledge can be conceived of as some coherent body of relevant knowledge that can be referred to as a schema. Once the new ideas and concepts are assimilated within an existing schema, then the schema can be used to generate new inferences, expectations and explanations. Learning failures and misunderstanding occur, typically, either when the cues in the new materials activate no relevant prior schema, or when the cues activate incomplete and under-developed prior schema. Misconceptions, so prevalent for science concepts, are a special type of learning failures. It is a unique case in which an inappropriate schema is activated for assimilation and generation. This chapter provides a theoretical account for this particular type of learning failures, using natural selection as an example. Some preliminary findings from a pilot study are also presented.

Keywords: misconceptions; natural selection; schema; science learning; learning failures

Chapter.  13458 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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