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An Exploration on Fifth and Sixth Grade Students’ Conceptual Patterns of Lever
The purpose of this study was to explore fifth and sixth grade students’ conceptual patterns of the attributes that constitute a lever. Several potential properties related to lever were identified by literature review, and two semi-open-ended questionnaires were developed accordingly. Meanwhile, a semi-structural interview was also designed to in-depth explore the criteria students rely upon to judge whether a setting as a lever. The responses were furthermore classified. One hundred thirty six 5th graders and one hundred thirty three 6th graders participated in this study. The major findings are as follows: (1)As expectation, the sixth graders outperformed in understanding the verbal definition of lever, the meaning of rotation, the condition of rotating, the technical terms related to lever, and the time-saving/effort-saving judgment of different types of lever. (2)Regarding the judgment of a setting as a lever, these two groups of students performed equally in cases of the first type lever. However, the 6th graders did better in distinguishing lever and non lever settings, type two and type three levers. (3)The criteria students drawn upon to distinguish levers from non-levers include: the existence of an applying force, the existence of support (fulcrum), the static-dynamic nature of the setting (does the setting swing), the appearance of the setting, whether the setting is force-saving, is the setting similar to seesaw, whether the setting rotating, and the coexistence of pivot, exerting force and resistance. The first three criteria were relied upon by the 5th graders; on the contrary, the 6th graders depended heavily upon the last criterion. The implications of the finding in science teaching and learning materials were discussed and suggested.
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