Initial Misconceptions and Change In Misconceptions Through Traditional Instruction, and Their Relationship to Students' Learning Styles and Achievement In First Semester College Physics

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Center for Science and Math Education

First Advisor

Iva Brown

Advisor Department

Center for Science and Math Education


This study was developed to determine the nature of the relationship between the criterion variables of initial misconceptions and change in misconceptions through traditional instruction, and the independent variables of achievement and sociological, physiological, and cognitive learning styles. Five sections of college physics students from two Southern sites, a two-year community college and a four-year university, were given the Force Concept Inventory (pretest/posttest) as a measure of initial misconceptions and change in misconceptions concerning force. Sociological and physiological learning styles were assessed through three sociological and four perceptual (auditory, visual, tactile, or kinesthetic) preference areas of the Learning Styles Inventory (LSI). The Gregorc Style Delineator was administered as a measure of cognitive style. Results indicated a significant relationship between the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) pretest score and achievement as measured by the final course grade. However, no other significant relationships were found to exist between the two criterion variables and the independent variables of preferred sociological, physiological, or cognitive learning styles. Qualitative data concerning change in misconceptions were collected through interviews with 16 students, in which each was asked to state his or her conviction concerning an FCI posttest answer, an explanation of that answer, and an attribute leading to the change of a pretest answer. Four to five FCI problems were discussed with each student. Students were not told if their FCI posttest answers were correct or incorrect. Students were able to state a conviction toward an answer, but this conviction (scored strong, weak, or none) varied. A chi-square test indicated that strong convictions corresponded with correct posttest answers, and weak or no convictions with incorrect answers. Students were also able to provide conceptually valid explanations of their correct answers. When asked what contributed to selection of a correct FCI posttest answer, students cited lectures or verbal explanations. When asked what experience would convince them of an answer, or facilitate a decision between two answers, students overwhelmingly requested the chance to "see it" or "do it." This supported the findings that the majority of students had visual (37%) or kinesthetic (24%) perceptual preferences.