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Abstract Title: Conceptual Blending as a Theoretical Framework in Physics Education Research
Abstract: Conceptual blending, as developed by Fauconnier and Turner, is an approach to analyze how cognition relies on individuals' drawing on and integrating several mental input spaces to spontaneously create so-called blends. Blending has recently received increasing attention in physics education research as a theoretical approach to study teaching and learning. In this symposium, we present conceptual blending as a theoretical framework, provide empirical examples of blending analyses, and, in an open panel-dialogue format following the presentations, explore how blending can be interpreted and applied in our field of study. The audience will get to know more about conceptual blending and how it can be applied in empirical analysis.
Abstract Type: Talk Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Bor Gregorcic
Uppsala University
Box 516
Uppsala, Sweden, Non U.S. 751 20
Phone: +46704422811
and Co-Presenter(s)
Jesper Haglund, Uppsala University

Symposium Specific Information

Discussant: Jesper Haglund
Moderator: Bor Gregorcic
Presentation 1 Title: Using conceptual blending to analyze student inquiry and embodied engagement in a technology-enabled collaborative learning environment
Presentation 1 Authors: Bor Gregorcic and Jesper Haglund (Uppsala University)
Presentation 1 Abstract: With the help of digital technology, we can nowadays design inquiry-based learning materials on topics that were traditionally out of experimental reach. One example is using an interactive whiteboard and the software Algodoo to allow students to "create" and "throw" planets into orbits around the Sun. As students engage in this immersive exercise and make sense of what is going on, they intuitively draw on their everyday embodied experiences of throwing objects and using touch-screen devices, as well as their ideas about the universe, physics formalisms and computer simulations. The conceptual blending framework allows us to make better sense of what students bring into such a complex activity and how we can help them gain a physicist-like understanding of the relationships between the "universe out there", physics formalisms, computer simulations and their everyday world.
Presentation 2 Title: Exploring the nature of mental model blending in the context of sound propagation
Presentation 2 Authors: Zdeslav Hrepic (Columbus State University), Dean A. Zollman (Kansas State University), and N. Sanjay Rebello (Purdue University)
Presentation 2 Abstract: While constructing their understanding in various science areas, students go through transitional phases that may involve richly developed and consistently used mental models. These transitional models are unique cognitive structures composed of elements of both scientifically accepted and the commonly used initial alternative models.  Such transitional models have been previously referred to as hybrid models or blend models. We will discuss the nature of model blending in the context of sound propagation and the issues that surface in their eliciting.
Presentation 3 Title: Conceptual blending as a framework for modeling the coordinated use of ontological metaphors
Presentation 3 Authors: Benjamin W. Dreyfus, Ayush Gupta, Erin Ronayne Sohr (University of Maryland), and Jessica Hoy (University of Colorado Boulder)
Presentation 3 Abstract: Intuitive reasoning and communication about abstract science concepts are often achieved through the use of ontological metaphors: metaphors about what kind of entity something is.  Previous work has shown that both students and experts can productively coordinate multiple metaphors for energy, particularly energy as a substance and energy as a vertical location, and that this coordination can be modeled using the framework of conceptual blending.  We apply this blending analysis to a group of students trying to understand the mechanism for atomic emission spectra.  The students create a blended mental space that enables them to arrive at a conceptual resolution.  The blended ontology is useful to these students in resolving their disagreement, and the blending framework is useful to researchers in understanding how the students did this.
Presentation 4 Title: Conceptual blending as a tool for analyzing group discourse
Presentation 4 Authors: Jessica Hoy, Noah D. Finkelstein (University of Colorado Boulder), and Ayush Gupta (University of Maryland)
Presentation 4 Abstract: While Fauconnier and Turner's theory of conceptual blending is a theory of the mind that focuses on the individual, we demonstrate that it can also be used as a tool for analysis of group discourse. Building on sociocultural theories that consider cognition a social process, we propose blending theory as a descriptive and analytic tool for use in examining the processes of collective reasoning.  We present data from focus groups at CU Boulder in which Modern Physics students engage in reasoning about quantum phenomena and negotiate ontological conceptions of quantum entities such as electrons and photons (i.e. negotiating what kind of a thing an electron or photon is). We present a conceptual blending analysis of group discourse within this context, and show how conceptual blending theory can be used to describe both collectively constructed blends and more traditional individual blends.
Presentation 5 Title: Blending mathematical formalism and gestures when separating variables in physics
Presentation 5 Authors: Michael C. Wittmann (University of Maine)
Presentation 5 Abstract: When looking at learning on short time scales, we find evidence that students' gestures and words both play a role in how new ideas develop. We use the conceptual blending framework to describe the creation of new knowledge in the moment - perhaps fleetingly, never to be used again, perhaps more permanently. Regardless of the time scale of the effect, blending is a model that lets us describe meaning that is emergent in the moment. So, can blending help us answer questions about the definition of learning? Or is it a just-so story, one that doesn't provide a next step for our study of knowledge and learning?