The evolution of classroom physics knowledge in relation to certainty and uncertainty

Andrée Tiberghien, David Cross, Gérard Sensevy

This paper deals with the joint construction of knowledge by the teacher and the students in a physics classroom. It is focused on the status of epistemic certainty/uncertainty of knowledge. The same element of knowledge can be introduced as possible and thus uncertain and then evolve towards a status of epistemic certainty; the status of other elements can do the reverse. The evolution of a certainty/uncertainty status reflects the evolution of the shared knowledge in the classroom. The study of this evolution is based on a previous analysis of the evolution of knowledge in a classroom during a teaching sequence of mechanics at grade 10. From this analysis two notions were selected and the evolution of the elements of knowledge associated was analyzed in terms of epistemic certainty/uncertainty. The results show how the emergence of new epistemic questions depends on the nature and status of student’s prior knowledge; in other terms, new epistemic uncertainty emerges from epistemic certainty.

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