University of Massachusetts Dr. John Clement

John Clement

Professor Emeritus
TECS Department
College of Education

Scientific Reasoning Research Institute
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003


Current Research Projects:

Strategies for Leading Classroom Discussions Aimed at Core Ideas and Scientific Modeling Practices

This NSF funded project has been involved in (1) conducting classroom case studies in the areas of high school mechanics and electricity, and middle school life sciences, in order to identify key discussion leading strategies used by exemplary teachers; (2) disseminating descriptions of the strategies for teachers and teacher educators via a website; and (3) combining the results of the case studies with studies of expert scientists reasoning practices to develop an integrated theoretical framework for model based learning in science.

Model Construction Processes in Experts

This project complements and provides input to the one above by attempting to understand model construction and learning processes in expert scientists, with an emphasis on the roles of analogy, imagery, and thought experiments. (See description of Creative Model Construction in Scientists and Students book below.)


Selected research articles are shown (some are downloadable) in my:

Publications List

Book News

Clement, John (2008). Creative Model Construction in Scientists and Students: The Role of Imagery, Analogy, and Mental Simulation. Dordrecht: Springer.

Softcover edition (2009) (Less expensive!)

This monograph presents a theory of creativity and imagery based conceptual learning in science that was developed on the basis of think aloud protocols from experts and students.

How do scientists use analogies and other processes to break away from old theories and generate new ones? This book documents such methods through the analysis of video tapes of scientifically trained experts thinking aloud while working on unfamiliar problems. Some aspects of creative scientific thinking are difficult to explain, such as the power of analogies, the use of physical intuition, and the enigmatic ability to learn from thought experiments. The book examines the hypothesis that these processes are based on imagistic mental simulation as an underlying mechanism. This allows the analysis of insight ("Aha!") episodes of creative theory formation. Advanced processes examined include specialized conserving transformations, Gedanken experiments, and adjusted levels of divergence in thinking. Student interviews are used to show that students have natural abilities for many of the same basic reasoning and model construction processes and that this has important implications for expanding instructional theories of conceptual change and inquiry.

Table of Contents (.pdf 124K)
Annotated Table of Contents (.doc 200K)
Publisher Information (.pdf 1.2 MB)

Clement, John , Rea-Ramirez, Mary Anne, Editors (2008). Model Based Learning and Instruction in Science.   Dordrecht: Springer.

This collection of studies by our research team describes new, model based teaching methods in science instruction and presents research results on their characteristics and effectiveness.
The book describes these new methods in a very diverse group of settings: middle school biology, high school physics, and college chemistry classrooms. Mental models in these areas, such as understanding the structure of the lungs or cells, molecular structures and reaction mechanisms in chemistry, or causes of current flow in electricity, are notoriously difficult for many students to learn. Yet these lie at the core of conceptual understanding in these areas. Six different levels of organization for teaching strategies are described, from those operating over months (design of the sequence of units in a curriculum) to those operating over minutes (teaching tactics for guiding discussion minute by minute.

Table of Contents (.doc 100K)
Publisher Information (.pdf 196K)

Preconceptions in Mechanics: Lessons Dealing With Conceptual Difficulties

by Charles Camp and John Clement. Contributing authors: David Brown, Kimberly Gonzalez, John Kudukey, James Minstrell, Klaus Schultz, Melvin Steinberg, Valerie Veneman, and Aletta Zietsman. 2nd Edition, 2008. College Park, MD: AAPT.

The nine units in this high school physics curriculum focus on areas where students have exhibited qualitative preconceptions -- ideas that they bring to class with them prior to instruction in physics. Research has shown that certain preconceptions conflict with the physicist's point of view. It has also shown that some of these conflicting preconceptions are quite persistent and seem to resist change in the face of normal instructional techniques. The motivating idea for this book is to provide a set of lessons that are aimed specifically at these particularly troublesome areas and that use special techniques for dealing with them. Other preconceptions contain important, useful intuitions that lessons can build on to foster sensemaking. Ideas in the lessons can be used to supplement any course that includes mechanics.

Free pre-publication version

Publisher Information:

American Association of Physics Teachers
Phone: 301-209-3333 Fax: 301-209-0845 Email

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