Sound stuff? Naïve materialism in middle-school students' conceptions of sound

Haim Eshach, Judah L. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Few studies have dealt with students' preconceptions of sounds. The current research employs Reiner et al. (2000) substance schema to reveal new insights about students' difficulties in understanding this fundamental topic. It aims not only to detect whether the substance schema is present in middle school students' thinking, but also examines how students use the schema's properties. It asks, moreover, whether the substance schema properties are used as islands of local consistency or whether one can identify more global coherent consistencies among the properties that the students use to explain the sound phenomena. In-depth standardized open-ended interviews were conducted with ten middle school students. Consistent with the substance schema, sound was perceived by our participants as being pushable, frictional, containable, or transitional. However, sound was also viewed as a substance different from the ordinary with respect to its stability, corpuscular nature, additive properties, and inertial characteristics. In other words, students' conceptions of sound do not seem to fit Reiner et al.'s schema in all respects. Our results also indicate that students' conceptualization of sound lack internal consistency. Analyzing our results with respect to local and global coherence, we found students' conception of sound is close to diSessa's "loosely connected, fragmented collection of ideas." The notion that sound is perceived only as a "sort of a material," we believe, requires some revision of the substance schema as it applies to sound. The article closes with a discussion concerning the implications of the results for instruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-764
Number of pages32
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Sound stuff? Naïve materialism in middle-school students' conceptions of sound'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this