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9. Abstract on: Physics & Teaching Physics [Emeritus Prof. Viennot, France]

Start Date:
12. October 2017, 11:00
Finish date:
12. October 2017, 12:00



Critical attitude and conceptual development in physics education: what links?



Among the objectives ascribed to science teaching, critical thinking is unanimously presented as of central importance. But the present focus on competencies observed in many countries correlates to the reduced conceptual structuring of resources that are commonly used in teaching. The question therefore arises of the possible links between development of a critical attitude and conceptual progress in a given domain. Based on an epistemological framework stressing the pivotal role of a search for coherence in science, a series of investigations involving future physics teachers at the end of their formation will be briefly presented. Reporting the participants’ evolution during in-depth interviews on various topics in physics, this address focuses in particular on the extent to which they critiqued incomplete or incoherent explanations. The findings are discussed in terms of “intellectual dynamics”—that is, differences in the coevolution of their conceptual understanding and critical attitude. In characterizing students’ responses, these studies bring to bear conceptual markers as well as meta-cognitive, affective and critical indicators. Some profiles of co-development will be characterized, including “delayed critique”, ‘early critique’ and “expert anesthesia of judgement”.

I will discuss the process by which the transition from critical passivity to the liberation of critical attitude is triggered in this population, discussing how we might help future teachers (and students more generally) to reduce the duration and effects of their critical passivity when they struggle to master the domain in question. More generally, I will argue that much more can be learned from students’ responses to an educational setting if analysis of their comments is not confined exclusively to conceptual aspects but attends more to the possible interconnections between conceptual and metacognitive-critical-affective awareness.





  • Viennot L (2006) Teaching rituals and students' intellectual satisfaction. Physics Education 41:400-408
  • Viennot L (2013) Les promesses de l’Enseignement Intégré de Science et Technologie (EIST): de la fausse monnaie? Spirale 52:51-68
  • Viennot L (2014) Thinking in Physics, The pleasure of reasoning and understanding in physics. Dordrecht, Springer.
  • Décamp N, Viennot L (2015) Co-development of conceptual understanding and critical attitude: analysing texts on radiocarbon dating, International Journal of Science Education, 37(12): 2038-2063
  • Viennot L, Décamp L (2016a) Co-development of conceptual understanding and critical attitude: toward a systemic analysis of the survival blanket. European Journal of Physics, 37/1:015702
  • Viennot L, Décamp L (2016b) Conceptual and critical development in student teachers: First steps towards an integrated comprehension of osmosis. International Journal of Science Education 38(14):2197-2219
  • Viennot L, Décamp N (2017) Concept and critique: Two intertwined routes for intellectual development in science. In: Amin T, Levrini O (Eds.) Converging Perspectives on Conceptual Change. Routledge, Oxford, pp. 190-197