Conceptions about Drinking Water of 10th Graders and Undergraduates


Any everyday subject may trigger individual conceptions either scientifically correct or naively shaped (misconceptions, alternative conceptions). For any educator, knowledge about a pupil’s individual perception may strongly support teaching success. Within this context, we see the use of drinking water as daily behavior loaded with conceptions. We monitored the perceptions of two different samples, of high achieving 10th graders and of undergraduates in Biology. All participants responded to three closed and three open questions requesting individual statements about drinking water. All open questions were categorized via qualitative content analysis mainly revealing the perception of drinking water as a clean product, precisely controlled and drinkable with no need for worry. In general, some alternative conceptions did not seem differ in both samples over the time of about five years: For instance, many see our drinking water as purified in sewage plants. However, differences between individuals exist: For example, whether water is consumed as tap or bottled water. Here, some name water hardness as the reason to not drink tap water, because they think it is harmful (although the very same participants prefer bottled mineral water). Other conceptions seem to change over time, such as the estimation about the remaining time until our drinking water might be used up, or familiarity with the term “virtual water”. Summing up, we did find a positive attitude towards national drinking water policy, although major knowledge gaps need its mentioning. The relevance of these results and strategies for public and school teaching are discussed.

Share and Cite:

Fremerey, C. , Liefländer, A. and Bogner, F. (2014) Conceptions about Drinking Water of 10th Graders and Undergraduates. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 6, 1112-1123. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2014.612104.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Grummt, H.J. (2007) The Drinking Water Quality in Germany in the Period from 2002 to 2004. An Overview. Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz, 50, 276-283.
[2] Bericht des Bundesministeriums fur Gesundheit und des Umweltbundesamtes (BBGU) an die Verbraucherinnen und Verbraucher uber die Qualitat von Wasser fur den menschlichen Gebrauch (Trinkwasser) in Deutschland (2011). Bonn, Dessau.
[3] Drinking Water Ordinance 2001: Verordnung uber die Qualitat von Wasser fur den menschlichen Gebrauch (Trinkwasserverordnung—TrinkwV 2001) vom 21. Mai 2001. BGBI. I, 959 ff.
[4] Pereira, M.P. and Pestana, M.E.M. (1991) Pupils’ Representations of Models of Water. International Journal of Science Education, 13, 313-319.
[5] Bartel, H., Dieter, H.H., Feuerpfeil, I., Grummt, H.J., Grummt, T., Hummel, A., Konietzka, R., Litz, N., Rapp, T., Rechenberg, J., Schaefer, B., Schlosser, F.U. and Vigelahn, L. (2010) Rund um das Trinkwasser. Umweltbundesamt (UBA), 2. Ed., Dessau-Roßlau.
[6] Duit, R. and Treagust, D.F. (2003) Conceptual Change: A Powerful Framework for Improving Science Teaching and Learning. International Journal of Science Education, 25, 671-688.
[7] Tanner, K. and Allen, D. (2005) Approaches to Biology Teaching and Learning: Understanding the Wrong Answers— Teaching toward Conceptual Change. Cell Biology Education, 4, 112-117.
[8] Taiwo, A.A., Ray, H., Motswiri, M.J. and Masene, R. (1999) Perceptions of the Water Cycle among Primary School Children in Botswana. International Journal of Science Education, 21, 413-429.
[9] Treagust, D.F. and Duit, R. (2008) Conceptual Change: A Discussion of Theoretical, Methodological and Practical Challenges for Science Education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 3, 297-328.
[10] Modell, H., Michael, J. and Wenderoth, M.P. (2005) Helping the Learner To Learn: The Role of Uncovering Misconceptions. The American Biology Teacher, 67, 20-26.[0020:HTLTLT]2.0.CO;2
[11] Gomez-Zwiep, S. (2008) Elementary Teachers’ Understanding of Students’ Science Misconceptions: Implications for Practice and Teacher Education. Science Education, 19, 437-454.
[12] Calik, M. and Ayas, A. (2005) A Comparison of Level of Understanding of Eighth-Grade Students and Science Student Teachers Related to Selected Chemistry Concepts. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42, 638-667.
[13] Novak, J.D. (1977) A Theory of Education. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
[14] Helm, H. (1980) Misconceptions in Physics amongst South African Students. Physics Education, 15, 92-105.
[15] Lewis, J. and Kattmann, U. (2004) Traits, Genes, Particles and Information: Re-Visiting Students’ Understandings of Genetics. International Journal of Science Education, 26, 195-206.
[16] Dickerson, D., Callahan, T.J., Van Sickle, M. and Hay, G. (2005) Students’ Conceptions of Scale Regarding Groundwater. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53, 374-380.
[17] Frohlich, G., Goldschmidt, M. and Bogner, F.X. (2013) The Effect of Age on Students’ Conceptions of Agriculture. Studies in Agricultural Economics, 115, 61-67.
[18] Sellmann, D. and Bogner, F.X. (2012) Education in Global Climate Change at a Botanical Garden: Students’ Perceptions and Inquiry-Based Learning. In: Filho, W.L., Ed., Climate Change and the Sustainable Use of Water Resources, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, 779-786.
[19] Vosniadou, S. and Brewer, W.F. (1992) Mental Models of the Earth: A Study of Conceptual Change in Childhood. Cognitive Psychology, 24, 535-585.
[20] Franke, G. and Bogner, F.X. (2013) How Does Integrating Alternative Conceptions into Lessons Influence Pupils’ Situational Emotions and Learning Achievement? Journal of Biological Education, 47, 1-11.
[21] Vosniadou, S., Ioannides, C., Dimitrakopoulou, A. and Papademetriou, E. (2001) Designing Learning Environments to Promote Conceptual Change in Science. Learning and Instruction, 11, 381-419.
[22] Franke, G., Scharfenberg, F.J. and Bogner, F.X. (2013) Investigation of Students’ Alternative Conceptions of Terms and Processes of Gene Technology. ISRN Education.
[23] Doria, M.F., Pidgeon, N. and Hunter, P.R. (2009) Perceptions of Drinking Water Quality and Risk and Its Effect on Behavior: A Cross-National Study. Science of the Total Environment, 406, 5455-5464.
[24] Parag, Y. and Roberts, J.T. (2009) A Battle against the Bottles: Building, Claiming and Regaining Tap-Water. Society and Natural Resources, 22, 625-636.
[25] Saylor, A., Prokopy, L.S. and Amberg, S. (2011) What’s Wrong with the Tap? Examining Perceptions of Tap Water and Bottled Water at Purdue University. Environmental Management, 48, 588-601.
[26] Doria, M.F. (2006) Bottled Water versus Tap Water: Understanding Consumers’ Preferences. Journal of Water and Health, 4, 271-276.
[27] Doria, M.F. (2010) Factors Influencing Public Perception of Drinking Water Quality. Water Policy, 12, 1-19.
[28] Institut Francais de L’Environnement (IFEN) (2000) La preoccupation des francais pour la qualite de l’eau. Les Donnees de L’Environnement, 57, 1-4.
[29] Mayring, P. (2008) Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse: Grundlagen und Techniken. Deutscher Studienverlag, Weinheim.
[30] Cohen, J. (1960) A Coefficient of Agreement for Nominal Scales. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 20, 37-46.
[31] Niebert, K. and Gropengießer, H. (2011) “CO2 causes a Hole in the Atmosphere”: Using Laypeople’s Conceptions as a Starting Point to Communicate Climate Change. Climate Change Management, 37, 603-622.
[32] Saka, A., Cerrah, L., Akdeniz, A.R. and Ayas, A. (2006) A Cross-Age Study of the Understanding of Three Genetic Concepts: How Do They Image the Gene, DNA and Chromosome? Journal of Science Education and Technology, 15, 192-202.
[33] Hartley, T.W. (2006) Public Perception and Participation in Water Reuse. Desalination, 187, 115-126.
[34] Grimm, V., Glauner, C., Eickenbusch, H. and Zweck, A. (2008) Wasserknappheit & Technologie Ubersichtsstudie. Zukunftige Technologien, Dusseldorf, 76.
[35] Bundesministerium fur Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit (BMU) (2011) Wasserwirtschaft in Deutschland. Berlin.
[36] Shaw, K.R.M., Van Horne, K., Zhang, H. and Boughman, J. (2008) Essay Contest Reveals Misconceptions of High School Students in Genetics Content. Genetics, 178, 1157-1168.
[37] Vosniadou, S. and Brewer, W.F. (1987) Theories of Knowledge Restructuring in Development. Review of Educational Research, 57, 51-67.
[38] Osterlind, K. (2005) Concept Formation in Environmental Education: 14-Years Olds’ Work on the Intensified Greenhouse Effect and the Depletion of the Ozone Layer. International Journal of Science Education, 27, 891-908.
[39] Posner, G.J., Strike, K.A., Hewson, P.W. and Gertzog, W.A. (1982) Accommodation of a Scientific Conception: Toward a Theory of Conceptual Change. Science Education, 66, 211-227.
[40] Dreyfus, A., Jungwirth, E. and Eliovitch, R. (1990) Applying the “Cognitive Conflict” Strategy for Conceptual Change— Some Implications, and Problems. Science Education, 74, 555-569.
[41] Lee, G., Kwon, J., Park, S.S., Kim, J.W., Kwon, H.G. and Park, H.K. (2003) Development of an Instrument for Measuring Cognitive Conflict in Secondary-Level Science Classes. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40, 585-603.
[42] Limon, M. (2001) On the Cognitive Conflict as an Instructional Strategy for Conceptual Change: A Critical Appraisal. Learning and Instruction, 11, 357-380.
[43] Weaver, G.C. (1998) Strategies in K-12 Science Instruction to Promote Conceptual Change. Science Education, 82, 455-472.
[44] Franke, G. and Bogner, F.X. (2011) Cognitive Influences of Students’ Alternative Conceptions within a Hands-On Gene Technology Module. The Journal of Educational Research, 104, 158-170.
[45] Franke, G. and Bogner, F.X. (2011) Conceptual Change in Students’ Molecular Biology Education: Tilting at Windmills? The Journal of Educational Research, 104, 7-18.
[46] Scott, P.H., Asoko, H.M. and Driver, R. (1992) Teaching for Conceptual Change: A Review of Strategies. In: Duit, R., Goldberg, F. and Niederer, H., Eds., Research in Physics Learning: Theoretical Issues and Empirical Studies, IPN— Institute of Science Education, Kiel, 310-329.
[47] Chi, M.T.H. (2008) Three Types of Conceptual Change: Belief Revision, Mental Model Transformation, and Categorical Shift. In: Vosniadou, S., Ed., International Handbook of Research on Conceptual Change, Routledge, New York, 61-82.
[48] Landis, J.R. and Koch, G.G. (1977) The Measurement of Observer Agreement for Categorical Data. Biometrics, 33, 159-174.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.