Can grade-6 students understand quarks? Probing acceptance of the subatomic structure of matter with 12-year-olds

Gerfried J. Wiener 1 2 * , Sascha M. Schmeling 1, Martin Hopf 2
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1 CERN, European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland
2 University of Vienna, Austrian Educational Competence Centre Physics
* Corresponding Author
EUR J SCI MATH ED, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp. 313-322. https://doi.org/10.30935/scimath/9440
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ABSTRACT

This study introduces a teaching concept based on the Standard Model of particle physics. It comprises two consecutive chapters –¬ elementary particles and fundamental interactions. The rationale of this concept is that the fundamental principles of particle physics can run as the golden thread through the whole physics curriculum. The design process was conducted from a constructivist perspective based on students’ documented conceptions. Three pillars underpin the whole teaching concept: a permanent model character, linguistic accuracy, and innovative typographic illustrations. Using the framework of design-based research, microteaching sessions with 20 Grade-6 students were conducted to probe its acceptance. The study focusses on learning processes of 12-year-olds with respect to elementary particles. Our findings indicate broad acceptance of most key ideas, but also avoidance when considering the permanent model character of physics. The most promising outcomes of the study are pure typographic illustrations. Not only were these thoroughly accepted by all students, but they also seem to reduce known misconceptions. Overall, students’ understanding of elementary particles improved fundamentally.

CITATION

Wiener, G. J., Schmeling, S. M., & Hopf, M. (2015). Can grade-6 students understand quarks? Probing acceptance of the subatomic structure of matter with 12-year-olds. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 3(4), 313-322. https://doi.org/10.30935/scimath/9440