npsm 새물리 New Physics : Sae Mulli

pISSN 0374-4914 eISSN 2289-0041


Research Paper

New Phys.: Sae Mulli 2021; 71: 747-758

Published online September 30, 2021

Copyright © New Physics: Sae Mulli.

An Exploration of Students’ Conceptual Resource in Learning Heat and Temperature

Ahmad Suryadi, Lia Yuliati*, Hari Wisodo

Department of Physics, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Universitas Negeri Malang 65145, Indonesia


Received: May 20, 2021; Revised: July 5, 2021; Accepted: August 18, 2021

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

We report the exploration of students’ conceptual resources before and after obtaining a learning sequence on the topics of heat and temperature. This study was conducted in three phases: before instruction, during instruction and after instruction. This study was conducted in MAN 1 Kota Malang, Indonesia. In general, four conceptual resources were activated by the students: namely, 1) students associate insulators with poor conductors of heat, 2) students correlate material characteristics with their perceptions of heat/cold, 3) students associate both phase change and temperature change with the process of heat flow and energy transfer, and 4) students equate temperature and heat. Our data confirmed that conceptual resource activation was highly context-dependent. For example, students thought that conductors were cooler than insulator materials and that conductors were hotter than insulator materials activated in an appropriate context and an inappropriate context. The results of this study can be used in designing the details of learning about temperature and heat the future.

Keywords: Conceptual change, Conceptual resources, Temperature and heat concept, Knowledge in pieces

In recent years, studies have found that students tend to experience difficulties in understanding the concept of heat and temperature although they observe the phenomenon of heat and temperature in their daily life [1]. Most of the student difficulties ascribed to intuitive knowledge gained from everyday life [2,3]. For example, there are still many students who think that temperature and heat are the same things [4]. Many students also understand that objects can be kept warm by wrapping them in wool, but students do not understand that wool can also be used to keep things cool [5]. Mathematically, students also still have difficulty understanding the heat equation/formula [6]. Even though, based on constructivism theory, prior knowledge should not be a constraint but can be a starting point for students in understanding science concepts including the concepts of temperature and heat [7].

Inventory of forms of student difficulties in the topic of temperature and heat is still being carried out. Scientists believe that by revealing various problems students can become the basis for improving learning [8]. Researchers have developed various ways and frameworks in observing how students understand a concept. A fairly popular framework and widely used to investigate student learning difficulties is a misconception [911]. Nevertheless, according to neuroscience theory, this misconception is challenging to overcome. When students are given the correct concepts, old concepts (misconceptions) are not entirely lost and new concepts naturally form the new schema in student cognition [12]. On the other hand, there is another framework that has become a hot topic in physics education research (PER) forums, namely, resource views or knowledge in pieces (KiP). The resource framework does not intend to remove students’ misconceptions but instead adjust their activation to the appropriate problem context [13]. diSessa [14] elucidated that students’ misconceptions could pronounce a solid and scientific understanding if students properly configured them. Besides, the resource term itself is a term first put forward by Hammer [15] and inspired by the intuitive thinking (p-prims) of diSessa [16]. The resource is a term for cognitive elements activated at any time with fine grain size [17]. Other studies have confirmed that resource frameworks are more productive in explaining students’ learning difficulties [18]. Recently, Richards et al. [19] grouped resources into three kinds of resources namely p-prim, conceptual resources, and epistemological resources. This study presents research results that focus on exploring resources at the conceptual level.

Several studies have been conducted to characterize students’ learning difficulties with a resource framework. Hammer [15] provides a simple case where students are given a problem regarding the minimum mirror height so that the entire body can be seen. One student named Sherry showed that one resource can be activated in one context but in another concept, it is not activated. The same results were found in a study by Loverude [20]. By analyzing interview transcripts from studies conducted by Watts [21], Harrer et al. [22] confirmed that the resource lens can be used to analyze students’ alternative conceptions with more detailed results. Young and Meredith [23] used the resource framework in identifying, improving, and assessing changes in students’ conceptions of fluid topics. diSessa [24] examined the topic of thermal equilibrium and explained how causal schemes involve p-prim resources in some students through a microgenetic study. These studies showed that the research framework could provide a more detailed picture of students’ understanding of a concept. However, these studies were carried out by survey technique or by case study at one time. Studies that use a resource framework in observing students’ conceptual change in a certain period are still rarely disclosed. This research was conducted to answer the following three research questions.

1. What conceptual resources are activated by students before instruction?

2. What conceptual resources are activated by students after instruction?

3. How does the activation of students’ conceptual resources change through instruction

This study was conducted in three phases. The first phase was carried out before the instruction where data was obtained by conducting interviews to find out students’ learning difficulties related to the concepts of heat and temperature empirically. Chiou and Anderson’s interview protocols were used to conduct pre-instructional interviews with five students who had received temperature and heat concept material [25]. Furthermore, based on the results of interviews and literature review, a rubric and coding guide were created to be used in the next phase. The second phase is an instruction stage. At this stage, integrated STEM learning was implemented. Before instruction, students were given a pre-test and after instruction, students were given a post-test. Pre-test and post-test were given to find out the cognitive resources of students before and after the learning sequence. During the learning process, the researcher observes the learning event and the activation of student resources. The third phase is carried out after the post-test by conducting interviews to confirm the findings of the previous phase by adapting Chiou and Anderson [25] interview guide and heat problem from Baser [5]; and Yeo and Zadnik [26].

1. Site

This study was conducted at Madrasah Aliyah Negeri 1 Kota Malang, a public school in Malang city, East Java Province (Indonesia). It is a school held by the Ministry of Religious and Affairs (MORA). Two different ministries manage the curriculum for all K-12 schools in Indonesia, The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) is responsible for all religious schools (madrasah) and the Islamic University system, and the Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC) is responsible for public schools, including both general and vocational schools [27]. There are four levels of education in Indonesia, namely early childhood education, primary education, secondary education, and higher education. Primary education is carried out for 6 years (6 – 12 years old) secondary education is divided into two levels, namely junior high school for three years (12 – 15 years old) and senior high school for three years (15 – 18 years old). Students begin studying general science at the elementary school level and continue at the junior high school level. At the senior high school level, students can choose several majors such as natural science, social science, language, or religion. For natural science major, students study physics, chemistry, and biology as different subject. Madrasah Aliyah Negeri 1 Kota Malang is an equivalent degree with another senior high school. In Madrasah, the student not only learns the common subjects like mathematics, biology, physics, social, civics, and others but also learns an Islamic subject like Fiqh, Al-Quran, Hadith, and other Islamic religion subject.

2. Participant

This research was involved the senior high school students in the odd semester of the 2019/2020 school year. In the first phase, five participants who have learned temperature and heat concept were involved. Besides, in the second phase, convenience sampling was done at the stage of selecting one class at the school in eleventh grade. The class consists of 35 students but only 25 (8 male and 17 female) students followed the entire learning process, and the other ten students did not take part in the entire learning process. All students have not studied the material temperature and heat in the previous lesson. Although the selection of one class causes the generalization decrease, the researcher can observe and extract information comprehensively. Purposive sampling utilized when selecting the participant that would be interviewed in the third phase. In total, 16 students were interviewed. The participants were selected based on the results of the pre-test and post-test analysis. They are representing of a group of participants whose learning progress is high, medium, and low.

3. Instructional design

There were four instructional meetings on heat and temperature topics in this study. Each unit took 90 minutes class periods to complete by STEM activity. In the first meeting, the students observed the use of the rivets. The students explained that phenomenon by conducting an expansion experiment. The students also had to complete the task by designing an engineering solution about using rivets in fuselage connection. In the second meeting, students analyzed the melting of ice in the polar regions. After that, they experimented by heating a block of ice. The students plotted the result of their experiment to the graph and analyzed it by mathematical reasoning. In the third meeting, the student discussed a mixing of coffee and ice. Students had to understand Black’s principles in this classroom meeting. By using Black’s principle, students were generating a recipe of ice coffee considering the final temperature.

At the end of the third meeting, students were informed to make a thermos of water by applying the principles of temperature and heat that they had learned. Guidelines are provided and discussed in online forums. This guide contains problems and materials for making thermos that can be used along with price estimates made by the teacher. In groups, they make designs and then consult with the teacher. In addition to making designs, like an engineer, students also estimate the cost of making a thermos. We hope that they can make a thermos that can hold the heat flow rate well at a low cost. Ideally, this activity is carried out iteratively until the desired prototype is obtained. However, due to time constraints, they were asked to make two designs to be able to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each design by involving the skills of controlling variables. The process of designing and making raw prototypes is carried out outside class hours during the week. In the fourth meeting in class, students did the finishing and testing by measuring the decrease in the temperature of the hot water in the thermos (Fig. 1). Students analyze various findings obtained and discuss them classically.

Figure 1. (Color online) Heat Loss Test for The Students’ Thermos.

4. Data Collection and Analysis

Data collection was done by pre-test, post-test, and semi-structured interviews. There were two items used to determine students’ conceptual resources. The two questions are as follows.

1. A child conducts an experiment using two small blocks of ice with a similar size and shape. One ice is left in the air, while the other ice is wrapped in cloth.

Story Version:

Which ice melts first? Make a short essay (3-4 sentences) that explains your answer?


a. Make a diagram related to the process of heat transfer in both situations?

b. Show evidence that there is a transfer or transfer of energy!

c. Explain the transfer mechanism (with what process this transfer or change occurred) and prove the choice of the mechanism you chose!

2. In a park, there are two identical chairs (the same shape and size). The two chairs differ only in material construction. One chair is made of iron while one is made of wood. Both chairs are under the sun, and Aldi is looking for a place to sit for a short break.

Story Version:

Which chair should be occupied by Aldi? Make a short essay explaining your answers?


a. Draw a picture of the heat transfer process at the event!

b. Explain your evidence that there is a transfer or change in energy!

c. Explain the transfer mechanism that occurred (with what process this transfer occurs) and prove the mechanism you chose!

The first problem was related to the effect of heat and conductivity of materials on the rate of melting ice; it was adapted from the study of Başer [5]. The second problem was related to the effect of heat and conductivity of the materials (wood and iron material) on the rate of heat flow in the materials under the hot sunlight. The format of these two questions follows the measurement of conceptual resources made by Sabo et al. [13]. Before being used, the instrument was validated by an expert and then revised. After being revised, the instrument was tested on 40 high school students who had studied temperature and heat. The results of the empirical test show that the instrument is valid with the reliability of the instrument with Cornbach’s alpha of 0.871. The questions were delivered in the pre-test and the post-test. Interviews were also conducted in this study both before and after learning. The interview was conducted in Bahasa. All of the interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim.

Students’ conceptual resources were analyzed from students pretest answer, posttest answer, and interview transcript. Analysis of student answers and interview data was done with the help of Nvivo software 12 Plus. The coding technique used is priori coding. Priori coding is a qualitative data analysis technique where a list of codes is made prior to conducting the analysis [28]. Data analysis was carried out in several stages. First, a coding guide was created by analyzing the transcripts of the phase 1 interviews complemented by a literature review. This manual contains coding procedures and lists of conceptual resources that may appear on the topic of temperature and heat. The coding guide was validated by three experts. Second, with the help of Nvivo software, the first author did the coding independently. Not all conceptual resources that have been listed were found in the phase 2 and phase 3 studies. Furthermore, the first, second, and third authors conducted focus group discussions to analyze the findings until mutual agreement was reached. For example, resources related to insulating properties are of two types, namely “blocking” and “inhibit.” The two are different in that ”blocking” means the heat is completely blocked or even completely reflected by the insulator. Meanwhile, “inhibit” resources are defined as resources that perceive that the insulator reduces the “quantity” of heat (Fig.2). As an effort to increase the trustworthiness of the data [29], we discuss the results with two experts in the field of physics education and confirmed each of our interpretations to the participants.

Figure 2. (Color online) Illustration of the difference between blocking and inhibit.

Students’ conceptual resources were measured before and after a learning sequence. We describe how students activated each resource in the problem context given in four sections. In each section, the resource variation would be explained and also describe the changes in the activation of resources before and after the instruction. In addition, at the end of each statement, we wrote the encoding with the form ”(participant, type of test).” Participants were coded with the letter ”S” which represents the word ”student,” and followed by ”numbers” representing student serial number. The “I” symbol referred to the Interviewer. Conceptual resources identified for each student are presented in Table 1.

Table 1 . Students’ Conceptual resources before and after instruction.

Conceptual resourcesBefore InstructionAfter Instruction
Insulators block heat flow (blocking)S-4; S-6; S-23S-6S-2S-6; S-10
Insulators inhibit heat flowS-3; S-7; S-8; S-20; S-22S-3; S-8; S-14S-1; S-4; S-5; S-6; S-7; S-8; S-12; S-13; S-16; S-17; S-20; S-23S-11;
The conductor is cooler than the insulator and.S-3S-15
The conductor is hotter than the insulatorS-4; S-9; S-16; S-18; S-20; S-22S-1; S-2; S-3; S-6; S-11; S-12; S-18
The process of energy transfer (the concept of heat) can cause temperature changesS-8; S-11S-2; S-3; S-7; S-17; S-18; S-20; S-21S-1; S-3; S-4; S-7; S-9; S-11; S-13; S-14; S-17; S-18; S-19; S-23; S-24; S-25
The process of energy transfer (the concept of heat) can cause phase changesS-2; S-7; S-8; S-10; S-11; S-15; S-16; S-17; S-20; S-21; S-22; S-24S-1; S-4; S-6; S-7; S-8; S-9; S-11; S-13; S-14; S-15; S-16; S-17; S-19; S-21; S-22; S-23; S-24; S-25
Students equate temperature and heatS-20


Based on the data analysis, there are seven resources used by students in solving the two given temperature and heat problems. We then categorize these resources into four conceptual resource groups, namely, as follows.

(1) Students associate insulators not as a good conductor of heat.

(2) Students connect the material characteristics with the perception of heat/cold.

(3) Students associate both phase change and temperature change with the heat flow or energy transfer.

(4) Students equate temperature and heat.

1. Students Associate Insulator Not as Good Heat Conductor

This resource referred to the response of the students associate with the insulating material concept. There were two variations of students’ resources related to insulator characteristics, namely (i) blocking and (ii) insulators inhibit heat flow. The insulator mentioned in this context was cloth. The different between “blocking” and “inhibit” presents in Fig. 2.

1) Resource Description

The first conceptual resource is blocking resources. Students associated that the insulator could block heat transfer. In previous research, blocking resources was a resource related to the material that has the nature of dispelling heat [16]. In particular, resource blocking referred to the understanding that an insulator cannot conduct heat at all.

The second resource is about the insulator was inhibiting the heat flow. In this second resource, students assumed that heat could still be delivered heat through the insulator but was slightly hampered by the insulator. Table 2 shows the variety of students’ answers on the three types of resources related to the concept of the insulator.

Table 2 . Conceptual Resources Related to Insulator.

ResourceExamples of Student Answers
BlockingIce that melts first is ice that is left in the air. The ice will absorb more heat because of the open state (without a barrier) while the ice wrapped in cloth is blocked by cloth so that the required heat is less. (S-4, Pre-test)
Insulating wood cannot conduct heat. (S-10, Post-test)
Insulator inhibits heat flowThe ice which is placed in the cloth will melt longer because the heat absorption process is slower. After all, it is blocked by the cloth.
(S-7, Pre-test) While the ice wrapped in heat cloth received will be hampered by the cloth so it will melt longer. (S-4, Post-test)

Table 2 shows that the students describe as the insulator material (i) may hinder heat (blocking) and (ii) inhibited the heat flow. The S-4 and S-10 answers were categorized as a result of the activation of blocking resources. The picture given by S-4 during the pre-test can be seen in Fig. 3 part a. S-4 depicted arrows reflected by cloth. Meanwhile, the S-10 explicitly stated that the insulator could not conduct heat so it was decided that the S-10 activated the blocking resource. Furthermore, students who activated the insulators to inhibit heat flow were identified from the students’ sentences by considering some keywords such as slowing down, taking longer, delayed while the coder still paying attention to the context of the students’ answers.

Figure 3. (Color online) The Change of S-4 Answers (a) Before The Instruction; (b) After The Instruction.

2) Change in Resources Activation

There was no difference in the number of students who activated blocking resources during the instruction. They were three students (12%). However, only one student (S-6) consistently used the resource. The other two students did not provide answers during the pretest. The results of the analysis also showed that there were differences in the number of students activating the insulator inhibiting the heat flow resource during the instruction. At the pre-test, there were eight students, or around 32% who used the resource about the insulator was inhibiting the heat flow. At the post-test, there was an increase to 15 students or about 60% using insulators that inhibit heat flow. However, only one student (S- 17) attributed the cause of heat flow constraints due to differences in material conductivity. Most students do not associate the characteristics of thermal conductivity with the heat flow rate. In general, there has been a significant change in inactivation resources related to the insulator concept.

The following were some examples of changes in inactivation conceptual resources related to the concept of the insulator. Figure 2 shows the change of resource inactivation by S-4.

Figure 3 showed the change in the heat picture by S-4. S-4 activated the heat “blocking” where the heat was reflected by the cloth at the beginning of the instruction. In contrast, after experienced the instruction, S-4 activated the resource that the insulator inhibits the heat flow represented in Fig. 3 part b. Another result is S- 4 also explained that heat would be ”blocked” by the cloth at the beginning. Meanwhile, when the post-test was conducted, S-4 changed his answer to be ”delayed” by the cloth. The differences in diction usage indicated that there was a change in the activation of students’ resources related to the concept of the insulator after experienced STEM instruction. The comprehensive results showed that the change occurred in three students namely S-4, S-6, and S-23.

2. Students Connecting Characteristics Material with Perception of Hot/Cold

This resource referred to the efforts of students to explain the link between the material characteristics and the cold/heat perception. There were two resources used by students whose activation was very dependent on the context, namely (i) the conductor is cooler than the insulator and (ii) the conductor is hotter than the insulator.

1) Resource Description

This resource was activated by students when they were answering question number 2. The context of problem number 2 is the perception of heat and cold when the wooden chairs and iron chairs were under the hot sunlight. Table 3 shows the examples of student answers and the categories of resources used.

Table 3 . Students’ Conceptual Resources Related to the Concept of Heat and Cold.

ResourceExamples of Student Answers
Conductors are cooler than insulatorsIron chairs are better be occupied by Aldi because they are not too hot. (S-3, Pre-test)
iron chairs because iron chairs are cooler / cooler than wooden chairs. Wood absorbs heat, iron does not. (S-15, Post-test)
Conductors are hotter than an insulator.Aldi should sit on a chair made of wood so that he does not feel too hot because if he sits on an iron chair he will feel uncomfortable. After all, the iron easily absorbs heat and if Aldi sits he will feel hot. (S-16, Pre-test)
Because iron is a good conductor of heat, it gets hot. (S-18, Post-test)

Table 3 illustrates the two resources activated by students when explaining heat and cold phenomena. S-3 stated that iron felt cold when occupied. Likewise, the S- 15 stated that the iron chair was cooler than the wooden chair. Both S-3 and S-15 were the example that indicated the students thought that conductors were cooler than insulators. In contrast, S-16 and S-18 understood that an iron chair would feel hotter than a wooden chair when they were put under the hot sunlight. They thought conductors are hotter than insulators. Those resources were still raw. We need more investigation to inference how students think about insulators. An initial step was done when students answer a similar topic but in different contexts. This description would explain in the following section.

2) Changes in resource activation

The activation of these resources in different contexts was observed by giving another question during the pretest and post-test, namely the concept of heat and cold when the wooden chair and the iron chair were put in a cold room. As a result, some students activated different resources in these two different contexts, but some still activate similar resources in two different contexts. After experienced the instruction, the result of this study showed that 24 students activated different resources in different contexts. However, there was one student who used similar resources in two different contexts. Resource activation inappropriate and inappropriate contexts are presented in Table 4.

Table 4 . Appropriate and Inappropriate Resource Activation.

ResourcesAppropriate contextInappropriate Context
Conductors are hotter than insulatorsAldi should sit on a wooden chair. This is because wood with iron is better at absorbing heat iron (good conductor). This makes the wooden chair has a cooler temperature than iron.
(context: wooden and iron chairs under the sun)
* S-4 pre-test answer
The wooden chair feels cold and the temperature is lower because the conductor wood is weak while the iron conductor is strong.
(context: wooden chairs and iron chairs are in a cold room)
* S-4 Pre-test answer
Conductors are cooler than insulatorsBecause iron is a conductor (conducts heat) while wood is an insulator (absorbs heat) and occurs by conduction cooler iron chairs.
(context: wooden chairs and iron chairs are in a cold room)
* S-21 post-test answer
Iron will feel cooler than wood because iron is a conductor (conducts heat), while wood is an insulator (absorbs heat).
(context: wood and iron chairs under the blazing sun)
* S-21 post-test answer

Table 4 showed the activation of appropriate and inappropriate resource activation. This table is intended to show that students may be right in one condition but wrong in a different condition. For example, S-4 activated resources that the righties the conductor was hotter than the insulator in the context of a chair placed under the hot sunlight before the instruction. The resource was reactivated when answering problems when a chair was placed in a cold room so it was not scientifically appropriate. The opposite was done by S-21 in which he applied the resource that the conductor is cooler than the insulator in two different contexts. S-21 was correct in explaining that an iron chair was cooler than a wooden chair when both were in a cold environment. S-21 activated inappropriate resources when explaining that an iron chair would still be cooler than a wooden chair even in an environment where the temperature was relatively high. It should be underlined in this section, the research focuses on the perception of heat and cold not on the temperature ratio of the two chairs with different materials.

3. Students Associate Phase Changes and Temperature Changes with the Process of Heat Flow or Energy Transfer (The Concept of Heat)

1) Resource Description

The first resource in this theme is the students associate heat with changes in the temperature of objects. This resource was identified during the instruction. This resource was activated by students when answering problem number 2 part b (see Fig. 2). It was about the question to explain the evidence of energy transfer when the ice was melting. This depicted in their remarks:

Changes in temperature on the chair happened. (S-17, Pre-test)

Because there is heat affecting the chair which makes the temperature of the chair increase and can cause the chair to feel hot. (S-3, Post-test)

The second resource in this theme is the students’ associate phase changes to heat flow. This resource was activated when students give answers to story questions on number 1 part b (see Fig. 2). This problem was related to evidence of energy transfer. They shared that:

Ice will transfer energy to the environment so that the ice will melt into liquid form. (S-22, Pre-test)

Ice that initially freezes to melt due to energy transfer (S-4, Post-test)

Examples of student answers above showed that students illustrated that heat could (i) change the temperature and (ii) change the phase. The answer of S-3 at the post-test added another statement related to the relationship between high temperature and heat perception with the term ”feels hot.” S-3 understood that higher temperatures would feel hotter than lower temperatures. These results indicated that students equate the temperature term and heat term. The results of the S-3 interview after the post-test showed that S-3 resources related to “high temperatures felt hot and vice versa” were productive. This resource was confirmed through interviews when S-3 was asked the question ”is there a difference between the temperature of the bag and the iron chair?” S-3 then holds the two objects and shared that:

I : For example, there are objects. (Shown by 2 different objects namely an iron chair and a bag) which one was felt hot?

S-3 : bag hotter than a chair

I : Is the temperature different?

S-3 : different

I : Which one was higher?

S-3 : the bag

The conversation above showed that a student activating resources that high temperatures would be hot and vice versa in various contexts. Not only S-3, but some students also understood that temperature was closely related to heat and cold perception. The relationship between material characteristics and heat and cold perception will be discussed in the next section.

Similar to S-3, S-22 also added several statements when he wrote his answer. The answer given by S-22 during the pre-test indicated that the S-22 activated resources that ice transferred energy to the environment. The resource was also activated on several other students. The answer was very intuitive because the ice that released heat did not freeze but factually melted.

2) Changes in resource activation

There were a different number of students who associated heat with temperature change during pre-test and post-test. There were nine students (36%) who associated the temperature change of objects with the process of energy transfer at the beginning of this study. At the end of the instruction, there was an increase of students who used the resource that the temperature change was related to the process of heat flow and energy transfer (14 out of 25 students).

There were also differences in the number of students who associated heat with phase changes of objects before and after the instruction. At the beginning of this study, there were 12 students (48%) who related the heat with the phase change. In the post-test, 17 students, or about 68% used the resource.

Related to the resources used by S-22 that ice transferred energy to the environment was also experienced by S-6. The difference was S-22 still used the resource at the post-test but the S-6 resource was no longer activated at the post-test. The changes in the activation of resources from S-6 during the pre-test and post-test can be seen in Fig. 4.

Figure 4. The Change of S-6 Answers (a) Before The Instruction; (b) After The Instruction

Figure 4 shows that S-6 activated the resource about the insulator makes heat accessible between ice and cloth trapped so that it cannot escape. Meanwhile, after the instruction, S-6 activated different resources namely heat flows from the environment to the ice.

4. Students Equate Temperature and Heat

This conceptual resource referred to the responses of the students who was stating that the temperature and heat were the same stuff. Students’ answers to problem number 2 showed that students consider temperature and heat to be the same thing. For instance, S-20 contended that:

Aldi is better to sit on a wooden chair because it will be more comfortable. The iron chair absorbs heat faster/ambient temperature. (S-20, Pre-test)

Although it did not directly state that temperature and heat were the same, the language conveyed showed that students understand temperature and heat are interchangeable terms. However, this resource was only shown by S-20. Furthermore, this resource was also no longer activated by all students including S-20 after experience the instruction.

The results of this current study showed that students activated several resources following the context of the given problem. In general, there were several conceptual resources activated by students, namely 1) students associate insulators not as good conductors of heat, 2) students correlate between material characteristics and the perception of heat/cold, 3) students associate both phase change and temperature change with the process of heat flow and energy transfer, and 4) students equate temperature and heat term. We examined that the activation of all the resources was depends on the problem context. An interesting finding in this study is related to students’ conceptual resources on insulator traits. In many reports, the resource that students use regarding this concept is blocking. However, in this study, the results of tests and interviews confirmed two types of blocking, namely complete blocking and partially blocking. The first type of blocking in this study we use the term “blocking” and the second type we refer to as “inhibit.” Another interesting finding is the second conceptual resource. By the same student, the resource about “conductors are hotter than insulators” and “conductors are cooler than insulators” can be used in two conditions, the appropriated condition, and the unappropriated condition. Without using the resource view, students’ understanding of heat perception will be deleted even though this understanding is still productive if it is used to explain phenomena in different contexts.

Students tend to associate changes in form and changes in temperature as an effect of heat. This result seems to be in harmony with the assertation of Wong et al. [30] that the way that students define heat was through the effects that were given. The effect of heat could be divided into two, namely temperature change and phase change. The instruction does not explicitly lead students to the definition of heat. Students were more directed to observe real phenomena [31]. Through observing the process of melting ice cubes, students take measurements of the temperature of ice cubes every minute. These activities helped students to see how the heat affected the change in form and temperature changes from ice to water. One group found a different graph where at zero degrees the temperature of the ice cubes did not change. Most of the students curious about that. The findings of this group were discussed classically to understand the concepts of heat and latent heat. Another resource related to the effects of heat was the resource that students described that ice releases energy during the melting process. This resource was represented by students both in verbal and in pictures. This finding was slightly different from the results of Chu et al. [32] where it was found that while students still had some difficulties, students’ concepts related to the process of freezing and melting were better than other phenomena of temperature and heat. Nonetheless, the results were also found by Schnittka and Bell [3] that before learning, students understood that cold could be transferred from a cold to a warm. It is also possible that students who activated the resource represent that the smoke released by ice when melting was a form of energy flow. This result in line with Clark [33] study who found that students changed their conceptions in a different order. This claim needs to be investigated further.

Furthermore, students activated two types of resources related to the concept of insulators, namely blocking and insulator inhibiting the process of heat transfer. Some students thought that cloth could block heat transfer, so the ice does not melt quickly. These results were consistent with diSessa [16], stating that one of the student resources related to insulators is blocking. The second resource was related to the understanding that insulators inhibit the energy transfer process. Even so, most students did not mention the conductivity of the material implicitly. This is in line with Nurjannah et al. [34] who found that students’ critical thinking skills on the topic of transcribed conductivity were still low.

The context highly influenced resource activation by students in solving a problem. Some students in this study activated the conductor resource hotter than the insulator if the two materials were placed in an environment where the temperature was relatively high. The students then activated a different resource about the conductor that was cooler than the insulator when the two materials were placed at a lower temperature. This result also echoes Richards et al. [19] study that conceptual resources were activated based on different contexts. Using resource views, Philip [35] found that a teacher thinks that student activity in class is really important rather than just doing homework. Factors of personal experience and STEM learning that were undertaken might help students used these resources according to context. Personal experience when holding the iron in cold and hot places helps to activate this resource. In addition, students were trained to analyze heat phenomena comprehensively with the STEM principle during the instruction. For example, students were asked to make thermos with diverse materials such as glass, sand, aluminum foil, cotton, foam, and plastic. In a STEM environment, students will try to improve their scientific literacy [36]. The activity trained students to observe how differences in materials caused differences in temperature reduction in the students’ thermos project. This result supported a finding by Schnittka and Bell [3] who described that learning with engineering design needs to target demonstrations that help students explained concepts scientifically.

One of the concepts in temperature and heat most mentioned in the literature was to regard temperature and heat as the same thing [3, 30, 32]. This result was also found in this study but it was only found in one person and no more at the time of the post-test. In the learning process discussion by some students and a teacher, researchers found that some students still have difficulty distinguishing between temperature and heat. It is possible that aspects of language differences between scientific languages and everyday languages as explained by Georgiou and Sharma [37]. It should be emphasized again that in English, the word ”heat” is used both in science textbooks and in everyday life. Meanwhile, in Indonesian, the word used in the textbook is ”Kalor” while in everyday life it uses the word ”Panas.” Therefore, students are even confused by distinguishing the words ”Kalor (Heat: scientific term),” ”Panas (Heat: daily term),” and ”Suhu (temperature: daily and scientific term).” Explicitly, the teacher and students discuss differences in the three terms in learning.

This study provides an indication of how each student has a unique way of thinking that teachers sometimes do not think of before. This reasoning is very contextdependent so it must be anticipated by the teacher so that students’ understanding becomes correct. Therefore, it is very important for learning to present richcontext learning. This study conducted in Indonesia which is tropical country. Based on the results in this study, it is possible that the conceptual resources of students in each country are different from each other because their experiences in everyday life are different. Students’ experiences in interacting with the environment related to the concepts of temperature and heat may differ between tropical countries and subtropical countries such as Korea. How the differences in conceptual resources owned by students in tropical and subtropical countries is interesting to be explored in the future. Furthermore, implied that conceptual resources obtained could be a consideration as part of learning and the type of instruction responsible to the students’ conceptual change. The investigation about how to associate students’ conceptual resource with appropriate context is still challenging.

Although this study has shown some interesting findings regarding students’ conceptual resources, this current study just involved relatively small number of samples. Therefore, this study had low generalization. Nevertheless, this small sample helps researchers to examine the problem in depth. A comparison of data between students was also easier to do, so the results were more comprehensive. Another limitation was that the implementation of learning had not been maximized. Although efforts had been made to direct student resource activation in the appropriate context, there were still activated some resources in the inappropriate context. Effective learning design in supporting student concept changes is still interesting to continue to explore.

This study was supported by Directorate General of Higher Education, The Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education the Republic of Indonesia Research Grant (project no. 10.3.23/UN32.14.1/LT/2020).

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