Epi•Stem Lecture Series: A talk by Prof Ian Abrahams

Professor Ian AbrahamsHead of School of Education & Professor of Science Education,
School of Education,  University of Lincoln


Thursday 22nd October , 17h00—18h00, Room A1-065


Title of Talk:

The prevalence of physics misconceptions amongst English and Chinese
undergraduate students: A comparative cross-cultural study



This paper reports on a small-scale comparative cross-cultural study that explored the prevalence of misconceptions in certain areas of physics amongst English and Chinese undergraduates studying non-science subjects. The study employed semi-structured interviews with a convenience sample of 40 undergraduate students – 20 English and 20 Chinese drawn equally from two universities in the North of England – whose formal science education ended at age 16 and 15 respectively. The results, in which students were asked a series of questions which were marked as correct or not, showed that whilst similar misconceptions exist amongst both English and Chinese undergraduates their prevalence was significantly higher amongst the English students (Chinese scored 27.7% higher, p < 0.01, r = 0.64). If the prevalence of misconceptions amongst English undergraduates is to be reduced, research into the way in which specific areas of physics are taught in China might prove beneficial. It might also be possible to reduce the prevalence of misconceptions in both groups if a better understanding could be developed of how, and why, undergraduates use certain, erroneous, analogies.


Ian Abrahams is Professor of Science Education and Head of the School of Education at the University of Lincoln. He has a degree in Physics (York) and Master’s degrees in History and Philosophy of Science and Mathematics (King’s College, London) and Education (Open) and a PhD in Education (York). Ian is a qualified physics teacher and was a head of department in a secondary school before moving, in 2008, to a lectureship at Bishop Grosseteste University. Following appointments at the Institute of Education, UCL; the University of York and the University of Leeds he moved to the University of Lincoln in 2015. Ian’s research relates to practical work, teachers’ and students’ attitudes to practical work and science, student misconceptions and the evaluation of educational interventions and has published and presented internationally in these areas. Ian has directed various national projects and has collaborated in the area of Science education with colleagues in Germany, Ireland, Israel, Singapore, South Korea and Turkey.