Our research

The research is a 2 year Education Design Research (EDR). In consecutive cycles lesson material is developed and tested in close cooperation and with input from a team of secondary school teachers both in Belgium and Lesotho and with input from the teacher training departments in science of NUL, UCLM and ODISEE.

The population in the research constituted of

  • 340 pupils in the first grade of general secondary education in science, in Lesotho and Belgium
  • 90 2nd year students of the teacher training in primary education in Spain and Belgium


Introducing a lesson phase dealing with what pupils'/ students ideas are about a specific preconcept (wake this idea up, share it, verbalize, identify it and shake it) and mirror it with the scientific point of view (introduce it, use it and secure it) will result in pupils/ students more effectively building and enriching their conceptual profiles. We expected enriching to imply both on the intuitive and the scientific conceptual profile in the way that the ideas that make up both these profiles are explored, verbalized and developed and the differences between these profiles are enlightened.  

Pupils' and students behaviour was observed and noted in observation charts. An example of an observation chart of the intervention in Ciudad Real can be found below.

In order to map the conceptual profiles that pupils hold, a frequency measurement of ideas, both non-scientific (preconcepts) and scientific,  was done in a control group and an experimental group based on two written tests :

  • A questionnaire consisting of 5 open questions based on the Michelline and Heron test on the concept of energy
  • A pictorial test using daily contexts on the preconcepts: energy transfer/ transport, the creation of energy, energy as a property

Before the intervention pupils took a pretest, and 2 weeks after intervention both groups retook both identical tests. 

Lesson material of the control lesson and the experimental lesson were developed and proposed by the research team. Both lessons covered a 150’ span. Both lessons offered the same scientific information on the concept of energy based on the national science curriculum standards. The experimental lesson differed from the control lesson in the introduction of a metacognitive aspect in the lesson, dealing with what students ideas are about the specific preconcept that only what moves and is alive has energy (wake this idea up, share it, verbalize and identify it, shake it) and mirror it with the scientific point of view (introduce it, use it and secure it). In each school/ university involved in the research, the same teacher taught the control and the experimental group.

Teachers voluntarily stepped in the project. They codesigned the approach, were trained in an information and instruction session, tested the approach in their lesson before the actual intervention and experiences were shared in a consecutive meeting. Although they were invited to change, alter the original lesson materials, teachers only made minor changes on the lesson material. Teachers did ask for extra support for the dialogic aspect of the approach. As a consequence, taking this different stand was supported by expanding the lesson plan ‘what will you do’ with information on ‘what will you say’, ‘what to expect’ and ‘pay attention to’

For details on the lesson material see 'teaching materials for energy'.


Teachers recognized the problem, were positive about the didactical approach, took ownership and gave input.

Teachers were initially worried about the unpredictability of the lesson, the timing of the lesson, class management and the dialogic aspect of the approach. In the course of the EDR, support was offered to counter these worries. 

The data analysis showed learning gain for the scientific concept 'everything has energy' and a loss for the preconcept 'every that is alive and everything that moves has energy'

The data analysis  showed no effects on other preconcepts.

For details on data collection and data analysis see 'publications'.


Engaged, trained teachers can adopt the approach.  

A dialogic approach that wakes up preconceptions engages conceptual thinking.