Sabine Knöner, a Ph.D. student at Humboldt University, Berlin is a visiting Scholar at Illinois State.

Sabine Knöner, a Ph.D. student at Humboldt University, Berlin is a visiting Scholar at Illinois State.

The Department of Psychology will present a brown bag session, titled “The ‘Balance of Nature’ metaphor in ecosystem dynamics: Investigating confirmatory strategies that hinder conceptual change,” with Sabine Knöner at noon on Monday, November 30, in 551 DeGarmo Hall. Knöner is a visiting scholar from Humboldt University, Berlin.


People have their own conceptions about how the world functions and how to explain phenomena in everyday life. But sometimes these conceptions can lead to naïve thinking about scientific topics in situations that require a more sophisticated view. Therefore, in science education, it is necessary to discover the preconceptions students hold about different topics in order to promote conceptual change.

The use of anomalous data is one promising approach to create a situation in which students’ preconceptions cannot explain the anomaly, thereby inducing the need for an alternative conception (Chinn & Brewer, 1998, 2001). However, recent studies show that students’ preconceptions are strongly held, and conceptual change may be hindered by a robust tendency to confirm existing conceptions rather than to change them in the light of anomalous data (Chinn & Brewer, 2001; Chinn & Malhotra, 2002; Hemmerich et al., 2015; Lin, 2007; Mason 2001).

My proposed study focuses on the use of such confirmatory strategies while students evaluate data. In particular, I want to investigate how students perceive and interpret data sets depending on their representation as graphs or tables as well as the amount of anomalous data that is presented. Eye-tracking techniques and think-aloud protocols will be used to understand the underlying processes during task processing. The task context involves “the balance of nature” metaphor, a common naïve preconception about ecosystem development and dynamics held by students, adults, and even ecologists (Cuddington, 2001; Hovardas et al., 2011; Sander et al., 2006; Zimmerman & Cuddington, 2007).

This brown bag series is funded by the Department of Psychology. To support the Department of Psychology and help enhance its educational mission with advanced teaching methods, guest speakers, and more opportunities for students to learn through research experiences, please consider making a gift to the department through the Illinois State University Foundation.

If you need a special accommodation to participate in this program, call the Department of Psychology at (309) 439-8651. Please allow sufficient time to arrange the accommodation.