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Next Generation Science Standards

Science Misconceptions

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Haley Jackson Haley Jackson 190 Points

What are some ways you can combat science misconceptions that students have? What are some misconceptions your students have?

Autumn Morrison Autumn Morrison 735 Points

Hey Haley, I think there are many activities that you can do to combat science misconceptions. If you are looking for misconceptions about topic and what they believe to be true then you can have student write down what they know or believe to be true then after the activity you can have students write what they learned and compared it to what they previously knew or believed. If you are looking to combat general science misconceptions one activity that you can do is have students draw what they think of when they think of a scientist. Then you can have students share and write down on the board the characteristic that they included, is the scientist in a lab?, is it a boy?, is the person wear glasses? ect. You can also add tally marks showing the amount of people who drew the same characteristic. This allows you to observe what the students misconceptions are and you can plan accordingly. You can then have a class discussion about the misconceptions and then have supporting activities around the misconceptions produced. For example if you have a lot of students that drew male scientist then you can gave students research different female scientist. Another idea is if you had a lot of student that drew scientist in a lab then you can have experiments/activity in which they are outside showing them that science is every not just in a lab. I hope a few of those ideas helped. Autumn

Danielle Cavazos Danielle Cavazos 450 Points

Haley -- I am currently a student at the University of Houston and one of the very first assignments we were given in my science course was to draw a scientist in our interactive notebooks. There are about 30 students in my class and only 2-3 people drew a female. I think this would be a great activity to do with your students to combat misconceptions of what a scientist looks like. I am guilty of automatically thinking of a male when I hear the word 'scientist' so therefore, I drew a male scientist. It is important for students to know that females can be scientists as well! Another activity we did was over planets. I have not learned or read about planets since I was in high school. Therefore, I never realized how small Earth really is compared to other planets. My professor showed us a video comparing the different planets and stars. It was truly amazing to see the difference in size. I think it would be great to ask students what they think about a certain topic, have them write it down, and then discuss it with the whole class.

Charissa Barnhill Charissa Barnhill 2434 Points

From what I have seen, the longer you teach, the more famiiar you become with what student misconceptions are. It's important to know what the misconceptions are becuase you will likely address them differnetly. Some could be addressed by having students explore a topic in a lab and others may be addressed by bringing in real world connections.

Ashalenia Graham Ashalenia Graham 985 Points

Hi! I agree with a few others who have mentioned the use of charts/literacy strategies.  I think if students write down what they think they know, followed by research/learning, they can look back and correct/ leave their previous predicitions/what they thought they knew.  Writing it down on paper/chart as well provides a visual that students can reference when needed in case that misconception is hard to lose. Hope this helps.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Haley,
In order to combat science misconceptions we have to uncover them. The Engage stage of the 5 E inquiry lesson model is a good place to do this. It can be as simple as using a KWL. When we ask our students what they already know, they often provide 'faulty knowledge' that harbors their misconceptions. I love using the Pedagogical Implications sections of the SciPacks to help me identify specific misconceptions students may be clinging to - the SciPacks provide color-coded strand maps that connect the conceptual understandings by grade bands.
One example is from the Explaining Matter with Elements, Atoms, and Molecules SciPack. One For the K-2 grade band, the following misconceptions are pointed out concerning evaporation and condensation and the conservation of matter:

  • Water disappears as it evaporates.
    Young children generally do not realize that all of the water still exists; it has just changed into a gas that we call “water vapor,” mixed with the air, and dispersed.

  • A sealed container with a bit of liquid in it weighs more than after the liquid has evaporated.

Let us know what concepts and grade level you will be teaching and perhaps we can share some common misconceptions on those topics as well as point you in the right direction to find resources to help you help your children confront their misconceptions.

Angelica Munoz Angelica Munoz 320 Points

Hello Hayley, I feel like using real world connections to science is a great way to clear up any misconceptions with your students. Students may think that things are the way they see it on tv or cartoons. For example, a misconception students may have is that when someone falls off a cliff, they stay there for a moment. Kids see that in cartoons therefore, they may think that it happens in real life. As a teacher one thing we can do for our students is role playing. The teacher may use students as examples to show what happens when something falls off an edge. -Angelica Munoz

Melissa Cantu Melissa Cantu 180 Points

Molly Hart Molly Hart 525 Points

I think that posters/models can often times be very misleading to children. This is especially true when they are not depicted to scale. I see these types of misconceptions when it comes to various concepts about science in the classrooms. Without guidance, you cannot really fault a student for taking a depiction literally. Therefore, I think concepts should be broken down into more digestible, easily understood chunks to avoid misconceptions as much as possible.

Nicole Anthony Nicole Anthony 702 Points

I am currently a student teacher, from what I have been taught so far and in my lesson segments, there are many misconceptions that are associated with science. From what I have learned I think it is a great tool to bring in real-world connections and do your best to weed out the misconceptions at the beginning of the lesson. There are different formative assessment strategies that focus on misconceptions as well. 

Taylor Planz Taylor Planz 1410 Points

An effective way to address misconceptions is through discrepant events, or an experience whose outcome is counterintuitive to what an observer expects to happen. This is a good example from Flinn: Surface Tension Demonstration. When using discrepant events in the classroom, it's important for students to write down what they think is going to happen before they actually observe it. Then when they see the event unfold, it 'shakes' up their understanding of the concept in a way. This paves the way for you to come in and explain the concept from a new angle, and students are more likely to abandon previously held conceptions because they want an explanation for what they saw.

I'm teaching chemistry right now, and one misconception I have seen quite often is confusion among the terms mass, volume, and density. Students frequently think that a substance with more mass must automatically be m ore dense, but this isn't always the case as we know.

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