Understanding how science students respond to anomalous data is essential to understanding knowledge acquisition in science classrooms. This article presents a detailed analysis of the ways in which scientists and science students respond to such data. We postulate that there are seven distinct forms of response to anomalous data, only one of which is to accept the data and change theories. The other six responses involve discounting the data in various ways in order to protect the preinstructional theory. We analyze the factors that influence which of these seven forms of response a scientist or student will choose, giving special attention to the factors that make theory change more likely. Finally, we discuss the implications of our framework for science instruction.
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