Using fMRI to compare cerebral activations between novices and experts in science during a task in mechanics involving a common misconception

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Brault Foisy, L.-M., Masson, S., Potvin, P., & Riopel, M. (2012, May 24-26). Using fMRI to compare cerebral activations between novices and experts in science during a task in mechanics involving a common misconception. Paper presented at the Meeting of the Special Interest Group (SIG) 22 "Neuroscience and Education" of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), University of London, United Kingdom.

Abstract

In the process of teaching science, educational interventions are often challenged by students’ misconceptions about various natural phenomena. Those misconceptions are not only common, but they are also particularly difficult to eradicate, their persistence thus becoming a fundamental obstacle to science learning. Specifically, mechanics is an important field of physical sciences that has been shown to be one of the most difficult to learn for students. The main objective of this research was to determine whether the brain regions usually associated with inhibition (including the anterior cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) play a role in the expertise in mechanics. Two groups of participants were compared: a group of novices who have not undergone a conceptual change in learning mechanics and a group of experts who are presumed to have already achieved a conceptual change. An fMRI protocol was used to obtain functional brain images while doing a cognitive task in mechanics. Two types of movies were presented: Newtonian movies, which were consistent with Newton's laws of motion and naive movies, which were not. Participants were asked to judge whether the movies were scientifically correct or incorrect. First results will be presented at this conference. 

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