A Qualitative Inquiry about Students Conceptualizations of Force Concept in terms of Ontological Categories

The purpose of this study was to inquire about students’ conceptualizations of the force concept in terms of ontological categories. Although some of the literature have been providing supporting evidences about the fruitfulness of ontological categories for explaining the nature of students’ alternative conceptions, some others provide strong arguments against it. To tap the controversial issues in the literature, an inquiry was conducted in a classroom context with students who were seeking a degree to become physics teachers. The data consist of four students’ written responses to physics problems, reflections about their own conceptualizations from the theoretical perspective of ontological categories, and video recordings of classroom discussions. The analysis of data showed that a theory-driven interpretation (ontological categories) about students’ conceptualizations of the force concept did not match with the students’ own interpretations about their conceptualizations. Furthermore, the students did not consider ontological category shift a fruitful instructional strategy because of the possible problems they projected for the implementation. The major problem emerged as the difficulty of situating every physics concept into the distinct ontological categories.