A qualitative research methodology was used to reconstruct and to analyze the conceptions of high school physics in Quebec (Canada), as regards the concept of matter. An historical perspective of the evolution of the successive models of matter is proposed, from the ancient Greeks to this day, with due emphasis on discontinuities. This perspective is used in the analysis of semi-directive interviews which reveal inconsistencies in these teachers’ reasoning, in relation to the concept of matter. The two questions which we chose for the interviews, as well as the reasons which motivated this choice: For you, what is matter? Does there exist an ultimate constituent to matter? We are going to see in this communication that: (1) all the interviewees have conceptions of the concept of matter which place them much closer to the ancient Greek materialism than to anything modern. Even when they talk about newly discovered particles, they describe tiny solid entities and their description stops short of including the wave-particle duality and its subtleties. The only exceptions have been some comments on the need for a unifying principle, which could come close to modern idealism in which the particle has no existence per se and the process is all; but, there again, the atom being chosen as the unifying principle, the conception soon fell back on ancient Greek materialism; (2) none of the interviewees seemed aware of the limitations of the conception they had; (3) none of the interviewees seemed aware that modern subatomic physics postulates an object which is beyond the usual objects and that as a consequence; we now face a gap between sense based knowledge and the scientific conception of the world and (4) none of the teachers elaborated on the replacement of the causal interpretation of the quantum phenomena by a probabilistic one.
|Keywords:||Secondary, Teachers, Conceptions, Models of Matter, Historical Perspective|
Professor, Faculty of Science Education, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada
Professor, Faculty of Education, Université d’Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada