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Avoiding Misconceptions in Science Education

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Tonya VanDerlinde Tonya VanDerlinde 2040 Points

One thing I think every science teacher (well, all teachers for that matter...) needs to be aware of is misconceptions. Because younger children are more likely to think in concrete terms, it's important that we address misconceptions early on. Some common misconceptions that I've come across recently is the inability for young students to grasp how large our solar system is in comparison to what they know in life. By creating multiple scaled versions, students can better see how to relate to the size of Earth and the solar system. Another common misconception young students have relates to the movement of the sun, moon and stars. The movement is very slow to the observant eye (besides the obvious day/night phenomenon). Children don't notice the movement of stars from night to night, for example. Since they think in concrete terms, movement to a child is limited to what they can see (cars and people moving around them). Lastly, I think it's also important to note the perceptions that posters and visual aids can display. When something is displayed in the classroom, it is important that the teacher make a mention of it or use/describe it in some detail. Without even realizing it, students are looking at the visual display on a day-to-day basis making their own judgments about what's there. If a teacher doesn't take the opportunity to use it as a teaching tool, they may be doing the student a disservice by leaving them to create their own conclusions from what they observe. Although hypothesizing is a great way to promote critical thinking, it's important that we address the misconceptions that can be conveyed.

Eileen LaTorre Eileen LaTorre 855 Points

Great point! I see these misconception with my United States map every year with my 5th grade students. Students have no conception of the size of Greenland and Antarctica until we learn about the Mercator projection and the distortion of going from a round globe to a flat map. When I show them globe in relation to the flat map it's a big aha moment. They were looking at the map in all the classrooms for a few years and just assumed the vast size of these areas. I also cut a map down the middle of the Pacific Ocean and tap it back together so they visual the proximity of Alaska and Russia. Another aha for 5th graders!

Brooke Reynolds Brooke Reynolds 1221 Points

I see this every year when I teach these standards. I am currently teaching about the solar system and I try to expose kids to hands on representations like you described so that they can understand size and distance. I also try and show them as many short videos or simulations to help them visualize it so that the can get rid of these misconceptions. The other standards that we focus on are the relationship between the sun, moon and Earth. We always have to reteach these concepts from previous years because it is very hard for them to visualize and understand the movement. Just the other day I had a student ask why don't we feel the Earth moving. I never thought about the visuals and how they could not understand them correctly. Thanks for mentioning that. I always use my anchor charts in teaching but never thought about the importance of explaining the posters or diagrams at length.

Haley Naum Haley Naum 195 Points

Good point! I am a preservice teacher and we have just begun to learn about misconceptions. I think it is very interesting and I even believed a lot of common misconceptions up until this point because it was the content that a lot of my past teachers taught. What are some strategies elementary teachers can use to minimize children's misconceptions relating to science?

Caitlin Quinn Caitlin Quinn 3305 Points

I think you've provided some great points here! Misconceptions are almost inevitable in the elementary classroom. Students like to create these concepts and thoughts up in their head that may not necessarily be true in the real world, in the science world. I believe that it is important that we tackle these misconceptions the moment they arise to avoid further confusion. I've noticed that many teachers will just push to side students comments about their misconceptions. They don't address them at all. I don't think this is the right way of going about it thought. I feel that by ignoring a students comment simply makes them feel as though their thought is not important. By ignoring it we don't erase the misconception they have in their head, on the contrary, I feel as though we further confuse them. We should show them and teach them why their comment may not be correct, but give value at all times to what students have to say. If not, all we are doing is probing them to shut down.

Sonia Ramirez Sonia Ramirez 465 Points

Well said about the misconceptions. I've only taught 5th grade science for one year and it's amazing the misconceptions the students have. Lastly, I love using anchor charts in my classroom. My ELLs are always looking for them for reassurance. It is important to use them as a teaching tool and not just decorations. When I believe they have the concept, I take them off and new ones take their place.

Eric Roth Eric Roth 3385 Points

I do a year-long project with my students about science myths and misconceptions. We keep track in our class wiki of "scientific" statements we hear, say, and read that we have questions about. We go through website reliability training and investigate things such as the air car and the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Then students pick a topic/statement to investigate and present. The idea is to back up claims with evidence and reasoning, not just blind trust. This is especially important in this social media age.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Tonya and Everyone who has been interested in this thread since 2012:  I just skimmed through all of the great contributions/posts and want to add one more resource that I think is invaluable for teachers wanting to know how to address misconceptions within their science content. I find the Pedagogical Implications section found with each SciPack to be a great resource.  Within the grade bands, the most common misconceptions are discussed.   Sometimes a SciPack is offered up free.  Check for it and put it in your library to check out that Pedagogical Implications section. Best, Carolyn

Sara Casiday Long Sara Casiday Long 200 Points

I am a preservice elementary teacher and for my Teaching Science class this semester we will have to interview two students about what misconceptions they have about science. This post really helped me understand some examples of what some students' misconceptions are. I never really considered before what students might be confused about, scientifically, so seeing these examples gave me a good idea of what the students I interview might say.

Sarah Brooks Sarah Brooks 355 Points

Great post! I am a preservice teacher about to observe in an elementary classroom and I think it is essential to understand these common misconceptions in science education. As an elementary student, I specifically remember looking at scientific posters and visual aids that were displayed in certain science classrooms. I remember trying to explain them to myself using my concrete ability of thinking. Sadly, I do not remember an instance in which my teachers explained the visual aids that were posted around the classroom. I still remember one specific poster on scientific ideas in a 5th-grade classroom. The poster was displayed as a hierarchal model moving from hypothesis to theory to law. Since the poster was displayed hierarchically, I accepted the common misconception that many students have of scientific ideas: hypotheses become theories which, in turn, become laws. Addressing these common misconceptions in the classroom allows the students to partake in higher order thinking skills when discussing the reasons why a thought could be a misconception.

Tayler Maiers Tayler Maiers 4510 Points

I love all that you had to say about misconceptions, Tonya! I am currently an university student taking my science methods course and we have just recently talked about misconceptions and how very many there are. You have made a lot of points and looking back on my days in elementary school, I don't think I ever actually realized that I had misconceptions about some of the things that I know/didn't know today - it is very easy to believe anything as a child! Even now though in my science methods course, we took a quiz over common misconceptions and I am pretty sure I got about half of them wrong, so misconceptions is a big part of science and something myself as a future teacher needs to take into consideration when I start planning out science lesson plans or science related plans.

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

I agree!! Student misconceptions can hinder the development of a strong understanding of content. I teach using the 5E learning cycle model in lesson planning. It is always my goal to flush out misconceptions and help students build strong foundations for their future learning. I design the "explore" phase of the 5E model to provide time for students to not only recognize, but also to adjust their misconceptions. So time to work through and rebuild their schema is also a very important part of the helping students identify and address their misconceptions.

Hannah Lestan Hannah Lestan 1100 Points

Hi there! I just had to respond to this thread because I wanted to share my experience... I also agree that student misconceptions can hinder the development of a strong understanding of content. Also, I am a fan of the 5E model when teaching science as well. I am currently in my last semester at Southern Illinois University and my science education teacher utilizes the 5E method not only with us as a class, but also encourages us to write all of our assignments in the 5E model. I found that it is very effective not only with my own learning, but also with students of younger ages. No matter the age of your students the 5E model is beneficial for all! I had never heard of the 5E lesson until last semester. What a great way to get students engaged into a lesson, while having them be excited to learn and discover by exploring! I do think that the 5E method could be used across the curriculum, and should be utilized more often! Hannah

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

Hannah, I so agree with you abbout misconcpetions, preconceptions and/or naive conceptions. Sometimes I think we as well intentioned teachers enable students to develop some of these by trying to teach abstract concepts like the size of the solar system or the movement of the sun, moon and the stars before students are cognitively ready to learn them. I decided to check out the K-12 Conceptual Science Framework and this is some of what I found dealing with the concepts you mentioned. [u]Grade Band Endpoints for ESS1.A[/u] [b]By the end of grade 2[/b]. Patterns of the motion of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, and predicted. At night one can see the light coming from many stars with the naked eye, but telescopes make it possible to see many more and to observe them and the moon and planets in greater detail. [b]By the end of grade 5[/b]. The sun is a star that appears larger and brighter than other stars because it is closer. Stars range greatly in their size and distance from Earth. [b]By the end of grade 2.[/b] Seasonal patterns of sunrise and sunset can be observed, described, and predicted [b]By the end of grade 5.[/b] The orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, together with the rotation of Earth about an axis between its North and South poles, cause observable patterns. These include day and night; daily and seasonal changes in the length and direction of shadows; phases of the moon; and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year. Some objects in the solar system can be seen with the naked eye. Planets in the night sky change positions and are not always visible from Earth as they orbit the sun. Stars appear in patterns called constellations, which can be used for navigation and appear to move together across the sky because of Earth’s rotation. I also totally agree with you about how misleading the visual aids, posters, etc that are available commercially. Some of these products do contribute to students' misconceptions. Kathy

Tonya VanDerlinde Tonya VanDerlinde 2040 Points

Would you mind explaining or offering a location where I can read more about the 5E system? I'm not familiar with it (that I know of) and would like to look into it. Thanks so much in advance! Tonya

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Tonya,
The 5 Es are engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate.
There are several resources in the NLC on the 5 E inquiry lesson model. I will share two that I think will be particularly helpful. One is a book chapter that explains the 5 E inquiry model. The other is a lesson plan written using the 5 Es. You will love them both,I hope :-).
Book Chapter:
BSCS 5E Instructional Model

Journal Article using the 5 E model:
Tried and True: Taking flight with an inquiry approach

Most of the lesson in the elementary and middle school NSTA journals model the 5 Es, so it is easy to find other examples in the NLC.

If you are familiar with Madeline Hunter and her model for lessons, you will find some similarities with this model (Example: The hook is like engage in the 5 Es). The 5 E model is an excellent planning tool in order to organize science lessons.

Brooke Reynolds Brooke Reynolds 1221 Points

Thank you for sharing. I would like to research and learn more about the 5E model. I have heard of it but have not used it.

Carla Pereira Carla Pereira 330 Points

I just finished teaching a lesson today on the distances between each planet. I made sure to touch on the different posters that kids normally see around the school. These posters are cute and mysterious, but they're completely inaccurate. I'm also working on correcting student's misconceptions about the moon. It seems a lot of them think that the reason we have phases is because of the Earth's shadow. (Very common misconception.) Have any of you done multiple lessons on the moon? Can I ask what kinds of things you focused on? Distance? Night and Day? Tilt? I want to make sure I give my students a thorough understanding of the moon without necessarily sticking to what's found in their textbook. Thanks!! :D

Daniel Carroll Dan Carroll 18610 Points

Interestingly enough, many of the ways we think about dealing with misconceptions can actually strengthen them. I am thinking specifically about the structure of the solar system. I think even most adults really don't have a full understanding about the size of the solar system and the size of the objects in it (compared to earth). The posters and models we can construct to help students see relative distances usually end up showing the sizes that are too large compared to the distances and if we show relative sizes we end up showing distances too small. I do not think it is that kids have misconceptions about these things. I think it is more that they simply do not know or have not thought about it. The physical structure of the solar system is conceptually beyond many of us and children are no different.

Cristina Kelesides Cristina Solis 1355 Points

I teach middle school and I still use KWL charts. They are a great tool that kids remember from elementary school and it works! I firmly believe that students must write down their predictions BEFORE a lab - misconceptions cannot change if students don't document that they even had a misconception. When kids don't write down their prior knowledge, they are more likely to believe they knew something all along.

Dana Jara Dana Jara 1375 Points

Some teachers in our district use the acronym OWL instead of KWL. The O stands for "observe" which helps students to understand they can observe something happening, but that doesn't mean they "know" the concept.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Carla and welcome to the discussion thread!
You asked, 'Have any of you done multiple lessons on the moon? Can I ask what kinds of things you focused on? Distance? Night and Day? Tilt? I want to make sure I give my students a thorough understanding of the moon without necessarily sticking to what's found in their textbook. '
I am wondering what grade level you teach Carla. If it is middle school, I came across an article sbout moon phases and how the moon looks different depending on whether you are viewing it from Earth or in space. It has students create models of the moon phases from the two reference points. It is an excellent lesson and is already written in the 5 E inquiry lesson format. It can be accessed at: A High-Stakes-Test Intervention: Moon-Phase Models as Viewed from Earth and Space
I plan to use it with my preservice class, too. Many adult learners have never had an opportunity in elementary school to ponder about why the moon seems to change its appearance. They often have lingering misconceptions that were never addressed in the earlier grades. This lesson will be useful for 5th graders on up through adults.
Let us know what grade you teach, and we can help you determine what is appropriate both from the grade level standpoint and based on your state's standards for that grade level.

Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25635 Points

Here's a huge list of science misconceptions posted here: I think the first step it to be aware that misconceptions exists within our students. The second step is to identify the misconceptions and then to confront student misconceptions via inquiry. As teachers, we need to make sure we are not perpetuating misconceptions or using materials that may reinforce a misconception. Teachers need to be aware that as wonderful as inquiry is, it can actually reinforce misconceptions. A good way to identify misconceptions is through the use of Page Keeley's popular science probe books

Gwyn Bray Gwyn Bray 3540 Points

I agree...misconceptions are always present in science. It isn't as straight forward as teaching a student to multiply or divide. When students are young teachers give students partial information which leads to later misconceptions. I find that as a fifth grade teacher I have to re-teach concepts that are brought by the students before you can add any new information. I find that lower level teachers, while they are fantastic at hat they do, they tend not to focus on science as it is not a primary foundational skill that gets tested. AS the students get up it the grades, they lack a set of foundational concepts to build upon.

Kendra Young Kendra Young 17180 Points

Hi everyone! Has anyone else here used anticipation guides at the beginning of their units? Anticipation guides are a literacy strategy that I modify at the beginning of a new unit (not each individual lesson). It consists of a three-column grid. The left column is where students put their "pre-lesson" answers and these are always true/false or yes/no type questions. The middle column is the question or statement they're responding to and the third column is where they put their "post-lesson" answers. It's a quick and easy way to reveal student misconceptions to me so I can tailor my lessons to their needs. I find it's more effective than "pre-tests" because they're very short (maybe 5 or 6 questions) and students revisit them after going through the learning experiences. If you're interested, here's a link that gives examples of several anticipation guides for different subjects. Thanks! Kendra

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

The anticipatory guides are a great idea, I do something similar but usually when doing language arts I got it from a reading comprehension set it's called F(facts) Q(questions)and R(response). There are tow ways you can do the questions section, it can be questions you have from just previewing the chapter or it can be questions while reading or learning about the topic. The response section can be answered along the way as the students are learning. The facts are also done as the students find important facts. I have found students gain a better understanding and can take their FQR charts home with them to study and they can share it with each other to gain more facts.

Nancy Wright Nancy Wright 2655 Points

Dealing with misconceptions depends on the student and where they are. The first step is always finding a way to help students have an open mind. Discourse around a topic with more than one idea or conception needs to happen often. Children need to be comfortable thinking out loud and being "wrong" as well as finding the right answer. Taking students outside the classroom and letting them see the stars, the sun rise and set in different parts of the sky during different times of the year, and letting them consider possibilities without criticism prior to their opportunities for discoveries is very important. Whether it is the study of the earth in space or something of a very different nature, students can grasp enough to grow further with an open mind when they are ready to take the next step. We must not cheat them of the opportunity.

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

Nancy, I agree with ALL you is very important not to cheat students of chance to experience ideas first hand. As teacahers we need to be good listeners, observe and know how to respond to ur student when they have questions.

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

I also agree that students should feel "safe" when learning. Students should be taught that making mistakes is half of Science. The other have is finding the "truth" Students think that these great scientific minds discovered everything on the first try. When we learn about the solar system I tell my students how some of the most famous astronomers who thought the sun was in the middle of the solar system were laughed at. Students then feel more comfortable to take risks and answer questions they are unsure of, but I tell them mistakes aren't important but finding the answer is.

Doris Padilla Doris Padilla 3345 Points

One thing I think every science teacher (well, all teachers for that matter...) needs to be aware of is misconceptions. Because younger children are more likely to think in concrete terms, it's important that we address misconceptions early on. Some common misconceptions that I've come across recently is the inability for young students to grasp how large our solar system is in comparison to what they know in life. By creating multiple scaled versions, students can better see how to relate to the size ofEarth and the solar system.Another common misconception young students have relates to the movement of the sun, moon and stars. The movement is very slow to the observant eye (besides the obvious day/night phenomenon). Children don't notice the movement of stars from night to night, for example. Since they think in concrete terms, movement to a child is limited to what they can see (cars and people moving around them). Lastly, I think it's also important to note the perceptions that posters and visual aids can display. When something is displayed in the classroom, it is important that the teacher make a mention of it or use/describe it in some detail. Without even realizing it, students are looking at the visual display on a day-to-day basis making their own judgments about what's there. If a teacher doesn't take the opportunity to use it as a teaching tool, they may be doing the student a disservice by leaving them to create their own conclusions from what they observe. Although hypothesizing is a great way to promote critical thinking, it's important that we address the misconceptions that can be conveyed. Dan I do agree with you. I believe that although addressing misconceptions is important, I also think that students having misconceptions is a strengthening quality. This means that students are thinking on their own and critical thinking is happening. As a future teacher, I will talk to my students about their misconceptions and find out why they made that reasoning instead of just correcting them. I think we should start seeing misconceptions as a step for critical thinking rather than a negative aspect. Nevertheless, we should always make sure that we talk about students’ misconceptions.

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Talking about student misconceptions and trying to find out why they have them is a starting point. But if teachers and adults do not try to help students clear up their misconceptions they will go through life with the wrong information. It is very hard to get students to let go of a misconception, but the best way is to try to find a hands-on activity to explain and clear up a misconception. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions that do not lend themselves to hands-on activities though. Page Keely's series of books on science probes is a good source to help with misconceptions.

Amanda Lizano Amanda Lizano 2745 Points

I noticed during my Teaching Elementary Science Methods class while learning about science content to teach students that I held most of these misconceptions myself. I will admit that I was wrong about why we have seasons and the elliptical shape I thought we had due to some of the illustrations in textbooks. I feel ashamed that I'm discovering some of these misconceptions now but I understand how easy is it for a student to form their opinion from misinterpreted information. It's hard to change it when you become my age, haha. But definitely, right off the bat, find out what a student knows through an open discussion and start your lesson from there. Students at any age can definitely hold conversation about how they think things work.

Sarah Bettsack-Walker Sarah Bettsack 3355 Points

In reply to Amanda Lizano I have the same science class and we were shown a video where they interviewed college graduates on the phases of the moon and seasons. The answers they gave blew my mind. Some where along their education road they formed what they though were logic reasons to answer the questions on why the moon has phases or why we have seasons. It was important to me as a future teacher to realize that students have their own ideas when it comes to the why in science.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

It is so important for our students to learn the importance of observation to be able to develop questions that address their misconceptions. Kids that do not have the opportunity to actively participate in observations are at a disadvantage, in my opinion. I understand learning increasingly is focused on e-delivery mechanisms, but I think that students need to really experience so many concepts directly. Think about shooting a projectile off a cliff. We could use Angry Birds to illustrate the concepts, but it becomes so much more real to use a launcher. The same analogies could be drawn for so many disciplines. My question is, how many of you find that your students actually seem to develop misconceptions as electronic delivery, especially of simulations, becomes an increasing part of our delivery plan? Any of you with one-to-one laptop programs find your students more focused on the technology than the concepts?

Jeff Goldstein Jeff Goldstein 340 Points

I think a fundamental approach to addressing a misconception is to set up an environment where it is the learner that is faced with an inconsistency due to their misconception, and is self-directed to correct it. They conclude their world model is wrong, it bothers them, and they take the lead in correcting that world model. This allows them to demonstrate why the misconception must be wrong, to anyone, and the correction will last a lifetime. Example: Standing in a U.S. classroom, you ask "if I could dig a hole right through the center of Earth to the other side, where would I come out"? Class will like shout out "China". Question to class: "hmmmm, what hemisphere is the U.S. in?" Class: "Northern" Question to class: "what hemisphere is China in?" class: "Northern" Question to class: "Does anybody see a problem with that?"

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Jeff, I think you make an excellent point about students discovering that there is a misconception and then try to explain it themselves. But what do you do with a misconception that a student has no way of explaining other than written research?

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Hi All, Thanks so much to everyone who had added ideas and input to this thread! I've really learned a lot as I read through posts! Jeff, I agree that the best way to address student misconceptions is to give our students authentic opportunities to see that the misconception is incorrect. As Jennifer pointed out, using hand-on activities helps our students learn, understand, and internalize science concepts. I, too, found that using hands-on activities really helps young learners understand scientific concepts and is a great way to combat common science misconceptions. Amanda, you've made the first step in becoming an awesome teacher who identifies and address common misconception and that is realizing that we all still have a lot to learn! I know I am constantly finding out new information that contradicts something that I thought before. NSTA has some excellent resources to help you identify and address common misconceptions. I've attached a collection with some of my favorite misconception resources. Maureen

Joseph Cerna Joseph Cerna 840 Points

Students relate topics of study with what they have experienced, some of our students have limited experiences with forests, oceans, rivers, canyons etc. Technology provides us with tools to represent perspective. I am always looking for more effective ways to build this type of relative knowledge for our students.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

There is a lively discussion of misconceptions in one of my linked in groups. Someone posted this link to the RCS list of misconceptions in chemistry. I love this! There is also a pdf book here Another resource mentioned in the thread is NSDL Science Literacy Maps NSDL Science Literacy Maps are a tool for teachers and students to find resources that relate to specific science and math concepts. The maps illustrate connections between concepts as well as how concepts build upon one another across grade levels. Clicking on a concept within the maps will show NSDL resources relevant to the concept, as well as information about related AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks and National Science Education Standards. Enjoy, Pam

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

I thought I would share something I have just read and posted about in Ready, Set, Science. Chapter 3 starts off discussing what young students know and are capable of learning. It then discusses misconceptions of those same age children. It says that" young students' misconceptions are "necessary stepping stones on a path toward more accurate knowledge" It also discusses how some of them are partially acccurate, some of the misconceptions the student will self correct as they get older and others that need explicit instruction. It certainly has my interest piqued. What do others think about these statements? Kathy

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

There is a great body of work on addressing physics misconceptions. The Reddish group at the University of Maryland has a great website with lots or resources The University of Maryland Physics Education Research Group is a combined effort of the Physics Department and School of Education to study the learning and teaching of physics at all levels from elementary school to the graduate level. Our program focuses includes both qualitative and quantitative research and relies heavily on video data of authentic classroom and learning environments.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Take a look at the Science Beliefs Quiz at Oakland University (Michigan). They have identified about 60 of the most common.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

The University of California at Berkeley had a good website on misconceptions in evolution

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

This website delves into common chemistry misconceptions The typology of learning impediments is intended as a diagnostic tool for thinking about where science learning 'goes wrong'. It is a model of the different types of 'learning bugs' that may occur when our teaching does link to students' thinking in the ways we intend. One category of substantive learning impediment is a grounded learning impediments. Substantive Learning Impediments occur where learning does not match the intended learning because the student interprets teaching in terms of existing ideas in a different way to intended. Grounded learning impediments occur because existing understanding (prior learning) is inconsistent with accepted scientific thinking.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

The New York department of education had put together a list of common science misconceptions

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Daphne Koller is using technology to identify student misconceptions and then develops targeted intervention

Daniel Carroll Dan Carroll 18610 Points

Intersting, because the movement of the sun, moon, and stars are relative to the earth and relative to the observer. The sun, for example, does not move as it is apparently moving. The movement of the sun that we are ble to observe is actually no movement at all. When we say the sun rises in the east and sets in the west we are describing an apparent motion of the sun based on our vantagepoint being stationary which it is not. Often the"misconception" we are thinking about are actually common conceptions of the average american adult. In many ways, these are not really misconceptions, they are valid descriptions of the motion of the heavenly using our position on earth as stationary. The rest is what makes science interesting. A la the galaxy song of Monty Python... We are standing on a planet thats evolving and revolving at 900 miles an hour, at18 mile a second so its recond around a sun that is the source of all our power... And so on. T

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Hello Everyone, During some of the past PD seminars and curriculum design projects in which I was involved, classroom educators helped to identify and establish student prior conceptions in physics and physical science. During the past several decades, cognitive researchers (some of whom have been high school teachers) have interviewed students trough video (as in the film interviewing graduates of a top school in Boston who received stellar grades in science and still held misconception about the Earth, Moon, and Stars) or established techniques to interview students through carefully designed probes (Jim Minstrell is one of the early researchers in this field.) and similar probes are found in Keeley's recent offerings. An overarching model of this cognitive research established Constructivism as a paradigm for teaching and learning. While reading through the many interesting threads and wonderful suggestions offered therein, I did not see this model discussed. So, I am putting it out there for consideration and review. Constructivism continues to be a foundation for many of the 'newer' models for identifying how students learn and how we best teach to root out misconceptions and promote sound understanding. A great deal of research has been done at Harvard, Cornell, Tufts, U of Washington, Berkeley, Dickinson U., U. of Minnesota, U. of Maryland and many, many other institutions on constructivism, but if you are unaware of its basic structure, you may opt to view this site: It clearly outlines what was a new paradigm and continues to be the foundation for current ones. ~ patty

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Constructivism resources found through a quick search in the Learning Center: The NSTA Learning Center search engine returned 13 resources when the keyword 'constructivism' is used. I will list a few below and invite you to do your own search of the LC Resources and to put together a personal collection on constructivism in your library. The cool thing is that this information will always be at your fingertips as long as you can access your LC personal library. 1. Research and Teaching: Cooperating with Constructivism—Getting the Word Out on the Meaning of “Constructivism” By: David T. Crowther Grade Level: College 2. The Prepared Practitioner: Constructivism and Conceptual Change, Part I By: Alan Colburn Grade Level: High School 3. The Prepared Practitioner: Constructivism and Conceptual Change, Part II By: Alan Colburn Grade Level: High School 4. Editor’s Corner: Doing Science With PBS By: Steve Metz Grade Level: High School This leads in Project Based Science, which is rooted in constructivism as well as a lot of Wiggins. ~patty

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Thanks for reading a bit about constructivism. The middle school journal article, Constructive Connections' description says, "An effective way to implement constructivism in the classroom is through the use of K'NEX building sets, an ideal exmple of toys that teach. In this activity, students construct knowledge by building bridges. K'NEX building sets allow students to visualize and manipulate concepts—for example, structure and strength can be a hands-on activity." The website and the NSTA Journal articles are found in the collection appended to this post. ~patty

Cielo Sanchez Cielo Sanchez 835 Points

Hello, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts about misconceptions, I have to totally agree that we need to familiarize ourselves with them and become knowledgeable and teach the students.  I am currently a student teacher and did a solar system 5E lesson.  I definitely stated some of the misconceptions and we discussed and it was clear that by the end of the lesson the students were understanding the objective without misconceptions because they had been cleared.  Thanks Cielo 

Jennifer Rosales Jennifer Rosales 830 Points

I definitely see the value in using the 5e lesson to help avoid and clear up misconceptions!

Dalia Hassan Dalia Hassan 995 Points

Hi there, Regarding science misconceptions. ARE ENERGY TRANSFER AND ENERGY TRANSFORM THE SAME THING? I need your help with that point.

Matt Bobrowsky Matt Bobrowsky 6410 Points

Dalia, did you ever get an answer to your question about energy transfer vs. energy transformation? If not, contact me: matt [at] msb-science [dot] com Matt

Sarah Gomez Sarah Gomez 455 Points

I agree! Misconceptions should be addressed immediately. It often takes creativity to address misconceptions in a way that is developmentally appropriate for students. Misconceptions can also hinder the learning process and development of scientific concepts. It is important to take into consideration prior to teaching lessons is the possible misconceptions students already possess. By keeping misconceptions in mind, a teacher can brainstorm and chose demonstrations or activities for students to adjust their misconceptions. Providing students with hands-on and engaging experiences are great ways for students to adjust their misconceptions. Because young students think in concrete terms, it is important that their learning and development is supported in ways that enhance learning and adjust their misconceptions. Strategies such as critical thinking, hands-on experiences, and the incorporation of real-world contexts are ways in to address misconceptions. 

Natalie Shepperd Natalie Shepperd 195 Points

I agree with all of the comments posted here! I am a preservice teacher and I realized that I believed most of the misconceptions without knowing that they are not true. Science has never been my strongest subject, so I can relate to students who might believe something because they were not taught correctly. It can be very confusing! What is the best way to guide children in a way that they will not have as many misconceptions?

Zeina Moubayed Zeina Moubayed 810 Points

I agree with everything that you had to say! It is best to teach our students early on when it comes to misconceptions. We need to assist them in knowing what is correct and what needs to fix. It is better to do it as early as we can so that confusing our students would not happen.

Ayda Parra Ayda Parra 1066 Points

Recently I found the following PDF addressing common misconceptions in science for elementary school children. Here is the link: Operation Physics at
I am gathering more resources to this topic on my library if anyone has more links with resources, I would appreciate it.


Matt Bobrowsky Matthew Bobrowsky 6410 Points

Ayda, there are some errors on that list.  Here's one:

> The sun is always directly south at 12:00 noon.

That is approximately correct for observers in the Northern Hemisphere, not a misconception.  The misconception should read:

> The sun is always directly overhead at 12:00 noon.

There are other errors in that list as well.  I'll post them when I get a chance.


Casey Stark Casey Stark 190 Points

I couldn't agree with you more. At my work, I notice how a lot of kids have a misconception of what a scientist is. They see a crazy, white coat man testing all these chemicals. This small misconception shows that a lot of kids may not understand science for what it really is. It is actually really interesting to listen to the different misconceptions younger kids have. As a preservice teacher, I can't wait to learn more about how to bring science into everyday lessons and I can't wait to show kids the importance of science and hopefully shape their misconceptions.

Danielle Campbell Danielle Campbell 200 Points

I am a preservice teacher this semester and we are required to have two interviews with students about misconceptions of science. I think this will be an interesting interview face-to-face with the students because it is my first exposure to science as a preservice teacher. These are great things to look out for in misconceptions. Thanks for sharing!

Brittney Geelhaar Brittney Geelhaar 760 Points

You brought up some excellent points! I agree that models/ posters can be very misleading to children, particularly when they are not to scale. I see these types of misconceptions very often when it comes to various concepts at the science center I work at. Without assistance, you cannot fault a student for taking what is before them literally, and concepts should definitely to be broken down into more digestible, easily understood chunks to avoid misconceptions as much as possible.

Emily Shinkle Emily Shinkle 3168 Points

As a preservice teacher, we discuss misconceptions and creating formative assessments to test those prior conceptions. What are some successfully implemented assessments you have used in your classrooms? What is the most effective way to provide evidence to replace these misconceptions with proven statements?

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