Thursday, August 23, 2012

Conceptual Change Workshop

Finnish Cultural Foundation funds a workshop series on conceptual change. The first workshop takes place in Helsinki between 22nd and 24th of August, 2012. The workshop is chaired by Ismo Koponen. The purpose of the workshop series is to open up new empirical and methodological avenues for research in conceptual change. The participating scholars work on different aspects of conceptual change. One central aim is provide a chance to rethink the details of the accounts of higher learning in light of recent developments in educational psychology, cognitive science, philosophy of science and computational modeling.

Associated with the workshop, a concept concept inventory is conducted, prepared by Otto Lappi and Anna-Mari Rusanen. The inventory is meant to be open for inputs during the whole workshop series. The answers and their analysis are used to discuss the concept of concept as a background for the discussion regarding conceptual change.

A number of prominent scholars has been invited to the workshop to address different aspects of conceptual change, including Stella Vosniadou, Stellan Ohlsson, Gualtiero Piccinini, Frank Zenker, Uskali Mäki, Ola Halldén, Åsa Larsson and Erno Lehtinen. In her presentation, Stella Vosniadou discussed conceptual change in the context of learning science and mathematics. Based on Vosniadou's long-term research in this area, she described her framework theory, its theoretical basis and practical application in education. A particular theme was the fragmentation and misconceptions as a potential initial product of instruction.

Stellan Ohlsson discussed the concept of deep learning that he has handled in his recent book. He started the presentation by comparing two metaphors on ontology: the world as a clockwork versus the world as an earthquake. The latter view emphasizes the unpredictable and history-dependent nature of complex systems. A cognitive implication is that turbulence renders prior knowledge obsolete which underlies the need for non-monotonic cognitive change. In relation to empirical research on education, Ohlsson pointed out four methodological difficulties: temporally coarse grained data, partially known prior knowledge, insufficient control of experimental variables, and hard-to-know knowledge assessments.

Timo Honkela presented a preliminary analysis of the concept concept inventory that was discussed above. For background information, he introduced the self-organizing map (SOM) model that was used in the analysis. He also discussed the SOM as an adaptive conceptual model (or as a component in such model). This kind of connection has been pointed out, among others, also by Risto Miikkulainen, Peter Gärdenfors and Brian MacWhinney. Furthermore, Grounded Intersubjective Concept Analysis (GICA) was introduced as a means to study individual or subjective differences in understanding.

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