Conflicts during Science concept formation in early childhood: barriers or turning points?



Young children experience a wide range of conflicts during everyday educational reality. Instead of being intellectual barriers, conflicting situations have a critical role in young children’s learning and development in Science. The present study seeks to explore the kind of conflicts that occur during collective science experiences in early childhood settings and how conflicting situations act as turning points in child’s science concept formation. Empirical data were collected during a collective science experience centred on the natural phenomenon of cloud formation and cloud movement. One hundred and thirteen kindergarten students, aged 4.5 to 6.5 years old, from seven kindergarten classes in Greece participated in the overall study. Indicative case examples are presented. Methodological choices were determined by the dialectical-interactive method. The Cultural-Historical theory concepts of motives and demands and the interrelation between everyday concepts and scientific concepts were used as the main analytical tools. Three main categories of conflicts were noted: a) collisions, b) impasse situations, and c) provocative situations. The way children engaged with, managed and resolved the conflicting situations influenced the way children developed their thinking about the phenomena. It is argued that diverse conflicting situations opened a new space of thinking, created new learnings and led to new types of activity in science for the children. The study suggests that by highlighting, unpacking and facilitating conflicting situations, early childhood educators can create dynamic learning spaces within a pedagogical framework that respects and builds on each child’s perspective.


Contradictions, conflicts, turning points, early childhood, science education, motives, demands, everyday concepts, scientific concepts

Full Text:



Arcaro-McPhee, R., Doppler, E. E., & Harkins, D. A. (2002). Conflict resolution in a preschool constructivist classroom: A case study in negotiation. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 17(1), 19-25.

Blunk, E. M., Russell, E. M., & Armga, C. J. (2017). The role of teachers in peer conflict: implications for teacher reflections. Teacher Development, 21(5), 597-608.

Chen, D. W., Fein, G. G., Killen, M., & Tam H. P. (2001). Peer conflicts of preschool children: Issues, resolution, incidence, and age-related patterns. Early Education and Development, 12(4), 523-544.

Dafermos, M. (2014). Vygotsky’s analysis of the crisis in psychology: Diagnosis, treatment, and relevance. Theory & Psychology, 24(2), 147-165.

Fleer, M. (2009). Understanding the dialectical relations between everyday concepts and scientific concepts within play-based programs. Research in Science Education, 39(2), 281-306.

Fleer, M. (2014). The demands and motives afforded through digital play in early childhood activity settings. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 3(3), 202-209.

Fleer, M., & Pramling, N. (2014). A Cultural-Historical study of children learning Science. Dordrecht and New York: Springer.

Fleer, M., & Ridgway, A. (2007). Mapping the relations between everyday concepts and scientific concepts within playful learning environments. In Learning and Socio-cultural Theory: Exploring modern Vygotskian perspectives International Workshop 2007, 1(1), 24-45.

Fragkiadaki, G. (2020). Transforming conflicts, shaping collective experiences, creating conditions for development. In E-proceedings of the ISCAR 2019 Regional Conference: Crisis in Contexts, Ioannina, Greece (in press).

Fragkiadaki, G., & Ravanis, K. (2014). Mapping the interactions between young children while approaching the natural phenomenon of clouds creation. Educational Journal of the University of Patras UNESCO Chair, 1(2), 112-122.

Fragkiadaki, G., & Ravanis, K. (2015). Preschool children’s mental representations of clouds. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 14(2), 267-274.

Fragkiadaki, G., Fleer, M., & Ravanis, K. (2019). A cultural-historical study of the development of children’s scientific thinking about clouds in everyday life. Research in Science Education, 49(6), 1523-1545.

Georgantopoulou, A., Fragkiadaki, G. & Ravanis, K. (2016). Clouds as natural entities in preschool children’s thought. Educational Journal of the University of Patras UNESCO Chair, 3(2), 114-128.

Gergen, K. (1982). Toward transformation in social knowledge. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Hansen, P. J. K. (2009). The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows - what do the learner know about clouds, precipitation, wind and greenhouse effect; a short review of research from 1883 to 2009. In 9th EMS Annual Meeting, 9th European Conference on Applications of Meteorology Abstracts, (Vol. 1, p. 237). Retrieved from,id.EMS2009–237.

Hedegaard, M. (2002). Learning and child development: A cultural-historical study. Aarhus, Denmark: Universitetsforlag.

Hedegaard, M. (2009). Children's development from a cultural-historical approach: Children's activity in everyday local settings as foundation for their development. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 16(1), 64-82.

Hedegaard, M. (2012). Analyzing children's learning and development in everyday settings from a Cultural-Historical wholeness approach. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 19(2), 127-138.

Hedegaard, M., & Chaiklin, S. (2005). Radical-Local teaching and learning: A Cultural Historical approach. Denmark: Aarhus University Press.

Hedegaard, M., & Fleer, M. (2008). Studying children. A cultural-historical approach. New York: Open University Press.

Hedegaard, M., Edwards, A., & Fleer, M. (Eds.). (2012). Motives in children's development: Cultural-historical approaches. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Laurandeau, M., & Pinard, A. (1972). La pensée causale. Paris: Presses Universitaire de France.

Leontiev, A. N. (1978). Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Malleus, E., Kikas, E., & Marken, T. (2017). Kindergarten and primary school children’s everyday, synthetic, and scientific concepts of clouds and rainfall. Research in Science Education, 47, 539-558.

Pieng, P., & Okamoto, Y. (2020). Examining preschool children’s intention understanding and their conflict resolution strategies. Early Childhood Education Journal. Retrieved from

Robbins, J. (2009). Analysing young children’s thinking about natural phenomena: A sociocultural/cultural historical perspective. Review of Science, Mathematics and ICT Education, 3(1), 75-97.

Veresov, N. (2016). Duality of categories or dialectical concepts? Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 50(2), 244-256.

Veresov, N., & Fleer, M. (2016). Perezhivanie as a theoretical concept for researching young children’s development. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 23(4), 325-335.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R. W. Rieber & A. S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky, Problems of general psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 39-285). New York: Plenum Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1989). Concrete human psychology. Soviet Psychology, 27(2), 53-77.


View Counter: Abstract | 0 | times, and PDF | 0 | times

Re S M ICT E | ISSN: 1792-3999 (electronic), 1791-261X (print) | Laboratory of Didactics of Sciences, Mathematics and ICT, Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood Education - University of Patras.

Pasithee | Library & Information Center | University of Patras