Quebec Secondary Physics Teachers and Modern Science: The Case of the Concept of Matter

By Abdeljalil Métioui and Louis Trudel.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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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

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.177-190. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 802.308KB).

Prof. Abdeljalil Métioui

Professor, Faculty of Science Education, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada

Abdeljalil Métioui received the B.Sc. degree in physics from the Mohamed Fifth University, Morocco, in 1977, and the D.E.A. degree in physics from Bordeaux-1 University, France. He also received the Ph.D. degree in didactics and the M.Sc. in Physics from Laval University, Canada, in 1987 and 1988 respectively. From 1977 to 1979, Dr. Métioui taught physics at lycée Zaynab, Tangier, Morocco. From 1983 to 1984, he was a teaching fellow at Laval University. He then worked as a research fellow, at the Université du Québec à Hull, he was an associate professor at the Département de Génie électriques de l’École de Technologie supérieure et de l’université de Sherbrooke. He has taught science teaching methods at Université de Moncton and Université Sainte-Anne. He is a professor at the Département d’Éducation et Pédagogie, Université du Québec à Montréal. Dr. Métioui directed research programs in science-teaching methods and technologies and published numerous articles, as well as given papers on children’s and teachers’ alternative frameworks in science. He has co-authored a book on the technology of electricity. His research interests involve teachers’ and student’s conceptions, and the use of history and epistemology of science in science teaching.

Louis Trudel

Professor, Faculty of Education, Université d’Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

Louis Trudel is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He received the Ph.D. degree in education and the B.Sc. in physics from Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada. He teaches didactics at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Trudel organized several conferences relating to the training of the teachers in sciences. He published several articles in specialized magazines and he is editor of a volume to be appeared on scientific education in the abstract mediums. His research interests involve teachers’ and student’s conceptions, and the qualitative and the quantitative reasoning in physics.