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PhD Defence Huub de Beer

posted 3 May 2016, 05:18 by ICO Education   [ updated 3 May 2016, 05:19 ]
On Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at 16:00hours exactly, Huub de Beer (Eindhoven University of Technology) will defend his thesis entitled Exploring Instantaneous Speed in Grade Five: A Design Research. All ICO Members are cordially invited to be present at PhD graduation ceremony at the TU/e campus, Auditorium collegezaal 4.

1st promotor: prof.dr. K.P.E. Gravemeijer
2nd promotor: prof.dr. B. E. U. Pepin
Co-promotor: dr. M.W. van Eijck

In answer to the call for innovative primary school STEM education to better prepare our children for participation in the information society, a design research project was started to explore how to teach instantaneous speed in the 5th grade. For the interpretation, representation, and manipulation of dynamic phenomena are becoming key activities in the information society, and the topic of instantaneous rate of change is firmly rooted in the realm of STEM. However, the standard approach of teaching instantaneous speed is based on taking the limit over an infinitesimal small time interval—an approach that is not feasible for primary-school students. The aim of the design research project, therefore, was to circumvent the difficult limit concept. The design research methodology, which is an interventionist process of iterative refinement that takes every-day classroom practice into account, was used to develop both a prototype of an innovative, inquiry-based, and ICT-rich instructional sequence on instantaneous speed, together with a local instruction theory (LIT) on how this prototype works in terms of theories about the students' learning processes and the means of supporting that process.

This design research project was started by formulating an initial LIT, which was elaborated, adapted, and refined in three design experiments—most of which took place in classrooms with gifted students. Each design experiment ended with a systematic analysis of the data to ascertain (1) what happened during the teaching experiments, and (2) why that happened. The results of the retrospective analysis were used to refine the LIT, which then acted as the starting point for the next design experiment. Given the theory-driven nature of design research, special attention had to be paid to the origin and development of the theoretical claims made in the LIT. In each design experiment, conjectures about the learning process and the means to support that learning process are substantiated in the instructional activities and materials that are developed, tried out, adapted, and refined in micro-design cycles during the teaching experiment phase of the design experiment.

Conjectures that are confirmed by the students' actual learning process remain part of the design and are tried and refined again in the next design experiment. As a result, conjectures are confirmed or rejected in multiple different situations, offering a form of triangulation. In addition to this, new explanatory conjectures are generated through abductive reasoning complemented by a systematic analysis of the data. From this process emerged a proposed LIT, which builds on the finding that the students have an intuitive understanding of instantaneous speed.

The LIT assumes that fifth-grade students are familiar with the context of filling glassware with water, and starts with the task to model the speed with which a cocktail glass fill ups. Via a process of repeated modeling and refinement, in which they improve their model, the students are expected to develop two models of the changing water height, a discrete bar graph and a segmented-line graph. When scrutinizing the segmented-line graph, they will realize that the segmented-line graph does not fit their intuitive understanding of a constantly changing (instantaneous) speed, and reason that a continuous graph better represents the process of filling a cocktail glass.

That conception is then deepened qualitatively and quantitatively by comparing the speed at a given point in the cocktail glass with the constant speed in a cylindrical highball glass with a corresponding width. Supported by a computer simulation, students are enabled to construe an imaginary highball glass as a tool for determining the instantaneous speed at a given point in the cocktail glass. Next, this conception is extended to graphs by linking the linear graph of the highball glass with the tangent line at a corresponding point of the cocktail glass’ curve. This understanding of instantaneous speed in terms of graphs and tangent-lines may be expanded into a more generalized, quantitative understanding of instantaneous speed.