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Misconception to concept: Employing cognitive flexibility theory -based hypermedia to promote conceptual change in ill -structured domains

Joseph John Frantiska, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The field of New Media authoring is still evolving and is largely an inexact science. The power of New Media lies in it's capability to present information in various forms to the learner for not only the acquisition of needed information but to allow for new ways of interpreting and understanding the information. More knowledge is needed to understand how best to combine different forms of media to enhance learning especially in domains of knowledge that are ill-defined and ill-structured. This investigation explores and examines how to best combine visual and textual information in the context of science education to promote conceptual change. Cognitive Flexibility Theory (CFT) will serve as the basis for this study. Tornado formation was chosen as the subject matter. The main principles of CFT are that learning activities must provide multiple representations of content with instructional materials should avoid oversimplifying the content domain and support context-dependent knowledge. Also, instruction should be case-based and emphasize knowledge construction, not transmission of information and knowledge sources should be highly interconnected rather than compartmentalized. The main hypothesis is that employment of the principles of CFT in a hypermedia learning environment that directs browsing of the dynamics of tornado formation will improve learning and transfer of complex knowledge of the subject matter and initiate conceptual change. The hypothesis was tested by having the subjects first complete a pre-test in which they displayed their current understanding of how a tornado forms. They are then directed to enter the hypermedia site via an entry point based on their apparent misconception of the subject matter as seen in the pre-test. The hypermedia treatment guides the student through both textual and graphical information about the formation of tornadoes in accordance with the principles of CFT. The subjects are allowed to change their conceptual understanding at points along the way. They are allowed to see case studies, definitions and an animation. Soon after the treatment is finished, they complete a post-test which is identical to the pre-test. The change in the test responses represents a conceptual change. The results showed a profound increase towards a conceptual change representing a shift from the subject's original misconception to a more correct understanding of the phenomenon. Specifically, when the counter-examples were in their initial positions so that they would counteract the subject's misconception, the rate of positive conceptual change was high. Also, when the examples were reversed in an effort to see if they could bring about a continued high rate of change, they were indeed able to produce this rate of change. Presumably, this was due to a heightened contrast between the misconception and the correct concept as the subject was lead deeper into their misconception before seeing the correct concept. In both cases, the number of subjects displaying a positive conceptual change was in excess of 60%.

Subject Area

Educational software

Recommended Citation

Frantiska, Joseph John, "Misconception to concept: Employing cognitive flexibility theory -based hypermedia to promote conceptual change in ill -structured domains" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3000305.