Understanding Energy-An exploration of the relationship between measures of students' understanding of energy, general cognitive abilities and schooling

Susanne Weßnigk, Knut Neumann
Research Letters   unpublished
Past research has examined students' understanding of energy at different stages of schooling. This research has led to the widespread view that students progress in their understanding of energy through a sequence of key ideas about energy. However, so far, it is unclear, whether this progression in understanding energy is a result of schooling or whether it is a result of maturation-in particular, as the role of general domain-unspecific cognitive abilities that improve with age, such as
more » ... h age, such as reading ability in the assessment of students' understanding of energy. In a re-analysis of data from N=1856 students of grades 6, 8 and 10 in German middle schools, we investigated, in addition to the amount of schooling, the impact of general cognitive abilities on measures of middle school students' understanding of energy. To do so we utilized a latent variable modelling approach. Our findings suggest that whereas students' understanding of energy is related to general cognitive abilities, this understanding is also considerably dependent on the amount of schooling. This finding corroborates findings from earlier studies that students' progression in their understanding of energy is indeed a function of schooling and not just a product of maturation.