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Brophy, Jere, and Janet Alleman. “Primary Grade Students’ Knowledge and Thinking About Transportation.” Theory and Research in Social Education 33(2) (2005): 219-43.


Very little information exists about children's prior knowledge and thinking (including misconceptions) about transportation, a topic commonly taught in elementary social studies. To develop such information, individual interviews were conducted with 96 K-3 students, stratified according to grade level, achievement level, and gender. The students were asked about transportation as a universal human need and the functions that it fulfills for us; its evolution over time and the impact of inventions; the tendency for settlements to be built along transportation routes; the ways in which improvements in transportation have "made the world smaller;" the fundamental importance of the wheel as a basic invention; the effects of building a highway through a rural community; how automobiles work; and several other aspects of the topic. Although inability to respond was a frequent problem, the students who were able to respond tended to be accurate and relatively free of misconceptions. However, they provided only limited answers to many of the questions because their responses were restricted to the micro-level of the activities of individuals or families, without addressing the macro-level of society in general or the world at large. Findings are discussed with emphasis on their implications for early elementary social studies.