Let’s Evolve Together: Understanding Misconceptions

As science teachers, it is our job to have our students think critically and dive deep into scientific knowledge.  A big focus on our classes today is scientific argumentation.  It is important to have our students find solid, fact-based evidence and back up their findings.  There are many different misconceptions in the field of science; but in this post, I want to focus on one big issue in the world of biology: evolution.

This video clearly states ways evolution has been taught and how the general public can view this concept.

What is there to do?

Science can be miscommunicated and taken the wrong way ALL the time.  When it comes to evolution, many people don’t understand the concept itself OR they just will not see eye-to-eye with the teacher.

While as science teachers, we want to teach our students the science behind all of our knowledge and information that has been collected over the years, we want to be sensitive to our students beliefs.  Religion might come up as an issue, especially talking about evolution.  Evolution may just be a theory to some and others avoid the evidence, we can explain politely that there are many different ways people actually perceive the creation and evolution of life.  We just want to explain that there are some different explanations to life than what has been presented to our students, and we will gladly respect that.

“If people evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?”

How to teach evolution

There are many different ways evolution can be taught and still have your students fully understand and respect your lesson.

  • Have a chalk talk about what students think evolution is, then have a discussion about what correct and incorrect perceptions of evolution they have to start with.
  • Introduce videos that get the students to understand that evolution is a long process that acts on populations as a whole, not solely on individuals.
  • Allow students to draw their conceptual understanding of evolution by using their favorite animal and how they got a unique trait (Example: the evolution of the head of a hammerhead shark)
  • Have students do scientific research on evolution using fact-based sources and have them present their findings in a poster.

 

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7 Responses to Let’s Evolve Together: Understanding Misconceptions

  1. creighcl says:

    Michael,
    I really like the idea of using a chalk talk to gather students background knowledge on a certain subject because students may feel less scared or shy to write what they really think, misconception or not. This also makes it easier for you as the teacher to gather what misconceptions are in your classroom and how many students have those misconceptions. I also like the idea of having your students conduct research and presenting their findings because it will cause them to take a personal interest in what they’re researching if they have to persuade others’ into dispelling misconceptions as well. Overall, great job!!

  2. seballmd says:

    Thank you Bailey! The video is a good TED Talk on why evolution can be misconceived in different ways and it helps clarify any of these ideas! Science teachers need to actively reassure that these misconceptions aren’t what real science is. As a student of chemistry, I learned quickly that hydrogen bonds aren’t within a single molecule, but are the interactions of hydrogens with OTHER molecules. It took me so long to realize that, but it helped me where I am today. Even though it’s chemistry and not biology, it was definitely a misconception that I had!

  3. seballmd says:

    Thanks Chris! I think having students trying to truly understand why these misconceptions are present is important to their learning in AND out of the classroom. It will help them think critically about the world around them. Having them do some of their own problem solving is important in any field of science. I think these practices are more easily done as small asides, but can be incorporated as a “big picture” throughout any unit of science!

  4. seballmd says:

    Thank you so much Margaux! I really want my students to be comfortable in sharing their own personal thoughts and opinions on what I will be teaching in class. I feel like as time goes on, there will be less controversy over evolution. But it will definitely be present no matter what. Some people may not agree with evolution, but it is still an important part of the field of science and deserves to be talked about!

  5. haiberm says:

    Loved it Michael!! I really liked all of your pictures and figures that you incorporated. They would be super useful to all of us in the future too when we’re teaching. I also like the idea of having a chalk talk so that everyone feels comfortable expressing what they already think especially with something like evolution. Do you think that there are still a lot of people opposed to teaching evolution that you would need to deal with appropriately? Great job!

  6. grantcp says:

    Hey Michael,

    I like your emphasis on encouraging students to resolve the misconceptions for themselves (with help of course) rather than simply telling them what the correct answer actually is. I think this really helps students both understand the scientific process and puts more weight behind what they find out. Do you see these activities/practices as whole lessons or small asides from “norm”? I think it’s a great strategy that can be used to instill knowledge while also introducing a lot of scientific practices!

  7. chastebm says:

    Micheal, this is a really great blog post. I loved all of your examples of how you will help fix students misconceptions. They video that you incorporated into your blog was also a really great addition to this post. I also agree with how important it is that science teacher help fix students misconceptions. As a student did you have any misconceptions and did any of your teachers help fix these misconceptions? Great post!

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