The impact of cognitive and affective aspects of cognitive conflict on learners' conceptual change about floating and sinking

Stella Hadjiachilleos, Nicos Valanides, Charoula Angeli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cognitive conflict has been identified as an important factor for bringing about students' conceptual change. Researchers draw attention to the need to study not only cognitive factors related to cognitive conflict but affective factors as well. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the contribution of cognitive and non-cognitive aspects involved in cognitive conflict on students' conceptual change. Sample: Fifteen students, five from each of fourth, sixth and eighth grades, participated in the study. Seven students were male, and the rest were female. All students had high academic performance and were good at explaining their reasoning. Design and method: The study focused on gaining in-depth information, using semi-structured clinical interviews, about students' thinking when they were engaged in an inquiry process, which incorporated cognitive conflict using a scenario about floating and sinking. Students' initial conceptions related to the phenomenon of floating and sinking were first diagnosed and, subsequently, discrepant events were presented to challenge their initial conceptions. The 15 interviews were qualitatively analyzed using the constant comparative analysis method. Results: The results of this study showed that students' conceptual change was directly related to both cognitive and affective aspects of cognitive conflict. The results also showed that some students showed persistence on alternative frameworks even after their exposure to cognitive conflict. Conclusions: Cognitive conflict is an idiosyncratic, or personal event, that may not be experienced by all learners in the same way. Thus, the effect of cognitive conflict on learners' conceptual change is directly related to learners' ability to experience and feel the conflict when it is presented to them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-152
Number of pages20
JournalResearch in Science and Technological Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • anxiety
  • cognitive conflict
  • conceptual change
  • interest

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