Exploring Chilean seventh grade students’ conceptions of Earth dynamics before and after model- and inquiry-based instruction

Claudia Vergara-Díaz, Karla Bustamante, Luisa Pinto, Hernán Cofré

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


International research has recognized numerous alternative conceptions and obstacles to learning about Earth dynamics. The objective of this research was to evaluate the impact of a teaching intervention that incorporates models and scientific inquiry to promote understanding about Earth dynamics in a group of seventh grade students at a school in Santiago, Chile. Through a quantitative approach, a quasi-experimental design was implemented with pre- and post-test evaluation of a control and an experimental group. Student-centred lessons were implemented in the experimental group, where data and evidence were analyzed, and analogical models were used to represent the collision of tectonic plates and the formation of relief. In the control group, the teaching of the same contents was carried out by a more “teacher-centred” approach. The participants were 60 7th grade students (36 girls and 24 boys) aged between 12 and 14 years. Student performances were measured with an instrument created and validated in a previous research project, which addressed three main topics: Earth layers, Earth dynamics and continental drift. We identified 26 misconceptions, many of which have not been described by previous studies. At the end of the intervention, both groups improved their knowledge about Earth sciences, but the effect was greater in the experimental group (mean = 26.8, t = –10.24, r = 0.81, p < 0.001) compared to the control group (mean = 22.4; t = –8.3; r = 0.65, p < 0.001). The results suggest that student-centered strategies represent an effective means for decreasing students’ misconceptions about plate tectonics and Earth science concepts in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-370
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Teaching Earth sciences
  • analog models
  • inquiry
  • plate tectonics


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