Tamer Amin

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Education
Associate Professor Department of Education, American University of Beirut

Research project

Conceptual Change: How We Develop an Understanding of Scientific Concepts

 

The goal for this fellowship year is to finalize a book on how to develop an understanding of scientific concepts. This study will synthesize research from a number of different disciplines: science education, developmental psychology and cognitive science.

 

Abundant literature on conceptual change in science education has provided insights on how scientific concepts are learned and how they should be taught. In developmental psychology, we find accounts on the origins of concepts in infancy and the process of change. In cognitive science, research on scientific expertise has demonstrated the conceptual reorganization taking place as expertise is acquired. These claims have been recently criticized and complemented by research highlighting the role of imagery and physical intuitions in expertise. Moreover, research in cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics and cognitive linguistics has converged on the idea that understanding abstract concepts is grounded in perception and action—i.e. that concept representation is embodied. One version of this idea, expressed in the cognitive linguistic theory of conceptual metaphor, is that abstract concepts are often construed metaphorically in terms of knowledge structures that emerge from sensorimotor experience.

 

There still is no unified account that brings together the progress made in these diverse disciplines. We rarely find attempts to identify consensus within disciplines. Even rarer are cross-disciplinary, theoretically coherent syntheses on how to develop an understanding of scientific concepts. The proposed study makes a contribution to filling these gaps.

 

It will tackle the question of how to understand scientific concepts on a broad metatheoretical level as well as on a narrower, more theoretical level within particular conceptual domains. On the metatheoretical level, it will synthesize current understanding within the fields of science education, developmental psychology and cognitive science regarding the nature of concept representation. It will also try to show how concepts are used in the context of reasoning and problem solving, and how novel conceptual understanding emerges. The metatheoretical synthesis will thus describe a broad theoretical framework and will then be used to propose specific accounts of how understanding evolves in three specific domains: the particulate theory of matter, energy, and the theory of evolution by natural selection.

 

Biography

 

Tamer Amin is Associate Professor at the Department of Education and Director of the Science and Mathematics Education Center at the American University of Beirut. He holds a Ph.D in Psychology from Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts. His research focuses on trying to understand the nature of scientific understanding and reasoning, how scientific concepts are learned and the implications of these processes for science education. In a parallel line of research, he examines the challenges multilingual contexts raise for science education in the Arab world.

 

Selected publications

 

‘Conceptual Metaphor and Embodied Cognition in Science Learning: Introduction to Special Issue', with F. Jeppsson & J. Haglund, International Journal of Science Education, vol. 37, no. 5-6, 2015, pp. 745-758.

 

'Conceptual Metaphor and the Study of Conceptual Change: Research Synthesis and Future Directions', International Journal of Science Education, vol. 37, no. 5-6, 2015, pp. 966-991.

 

'Varying use of conceptual metaphors across levels of expertise in thermodynamics', with F. Jeppsson & J. Haglund, International Journal of Science Education, vol. 37, no. 5-6, 2015, pp. 780-805.

 

'Exploring the Use of Conceptual Metaphors in Solving Problems on Entropy', with F. Jeppsson, J. Haglund & H. Strömdahl, Journal of the Learning Sciences, vol. 22, no. 1, 2012, pp. 70-120.

 

'Arrow of Time: Metaphorical Construals of Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics', with F. Jeppsson, J. Haglund & H. Strömdahl, Science Education, vol. 95, no. 5, 2012, pp. 818-848.

 

institut

senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Anthropology
2017
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Cultural Studies
2014
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Psychology
2015
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Anthropology
2017