Denis Pasco, Catherine D. Ennis

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Students’ prior knowledge plays an important role in learning viewed as a conceptual change process. In physical education, positive changes in students’ lifestyles may come from changes in their conceptual understanding of the physiological effects of exercise on the body. Among physical education teachers, charged with teaching health content related to physical activity, a better understanding of students’ mental models of blood circulation and how it pertains to exercise may be useful in order to promote an effective instruction-induced conceptual change. The purpose of this study was to examine third to fifth grade students’ mental models of blood circulation related to exercise. The students (N=107) were interviewed during their regular physical education class on their understanding of blood circulation during exercise. The interviews were analyzed using descriptive and axial coding and the emerging categories and topics were examined. The results revealed an initial mental model (when you exercise, your blood goes everywhere in your body) and three synthetic mental models described through the ‘blood journey’ metaphor. These results are discussed in relation to: (a) the gradual nature of students’ mental models, (b) the developmental and non-developmental progression of students’ mental models, and (c) learning failures during the process of conceptual change.

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