Shadows: An Example of Conceptual Change

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Delores B. Gallo


This paper looks at a child’s conception of shadows at two different times, one year apart. During the period and even during the interviews, there was evidence of the unfolding of a conceptual change. Questions were asked to find out what the child knew about the shadows. Initially, responses indicated that the child believed shadows exist continuously, and had object and life-like qualities that pertain to the self and the senses. These beliefs were used to show that shadows do not exist continuously, and are not material objects that can be felt and can be seen but then disappear. This is a difficult paradox for the child to understand. The child had some ideas of how shadows were created by the interaction of light and objects. However, specific beliefs and causal explanations about how shadows reflect the absence of lights (and object block the path of light) were not yet clearly developed. In places the child could not give a full explanation of these paradoxes - saying “it is funny and weird." I argue that the use of analogical comparison and generative questioning can encourage the development of new beliefs. Asking a critical thinking question - Can you hold a shadow? can encourage the child to maintain own beliefs whilst searching for new solutions to change initial beliefs.


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