Alternative conceptions and their origins of science teachers about current electricity

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (M. Ed.)


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


Alternative conceptions are the ideas which children and adults use to explain various scientific concepts which do not match with the generally accepted scientific explanation of those concepts. The focus of this qualitative research study was to explore the alternative conceptions of science teachers and their origins about basic concepts of current electricity. The concepts were taken from the science curricula of classes VI and VII and mainly include the concepts about the nature and flow of electric current, conductors and insulators, electric current in a simple circuit and electric current in a series and a parallel circuit. The sample included six middle school science teachers from three private schools in Karachi. Three different tools were used to explore teachers' conceptions and their origins about the selected concepts. The tools were (a) observation of classroom teaching while current electricity was being taught, (b) two questionnaires namely Learning Experience Sheet' and Task Sheet', (c ) an in-depth interview session. Learning Experience Sheet helped me to investigate how teachers had learnt about current electricity. Classroom observations and the Task Sheet explored the teachers' existing conceptions about electricity. The interview sessions provided me with an opportunity to discuss with the teachers their ideas in detail about electric current and the origins of these ideas. Open ended questions and probes were mainly used in the interview. The data obtained from all these sources was analysed and it was found that middle school science teachers of my sample hold several alternative conceptions about the basic concepts of current electricity. Many of their alternative conceptions are similar to those of children. For example, the teachers believe that a battery is a store of electrons which gives a fixed amount of electric current to any circuit in which it is placed, charge is used up by electrical devices, and electric current constitutes of the electrons which are produced in the battery. This study also explored that teachers' own rote learning of science as students, textbooks, daily life experiences, and lack of hands on experiences in current electricity are the main sources of teachers' alternative conceptions.

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