Looking at these above statements, how many do you think are true? Trick question: They’re ALL false! Now, don’t feel bad, a lot people believe these things to be true. After all, some of them are things that we grew up hearing or just make sense in our heads when we look at the world around us. All of these things are something called misconceptions.
What is a Misconception and How Do They Form?
In science, a misconception is a preconceived notion that a person has about a topic that goes against what is generally accepted by the scientific community.
Misconceptions in science can be obtained in a variety of different ways including:
- Preconceived notions obtained from observations of the natural world
- Religious ideas that disagree with scientific evidence
- An incomplete or flawed understanding of a concept
- Vernacular misconceptions
- Factual misconceptions learned from an early age and passed down from generation to generation
This video goes into a little more detail about misconceptions, how they are formed, and how conceptual change can take place.
How Can We Address Misconceptions in the Classroom?
Getting rid of a misconception and replacing it with a new, correct idea can be difficult. Students have believed that misconception to be true for so long, so it’s not going to go away just like that. However, just like the teacher in the video, there are steps that we can take with our own students to facilitate conceptual change.
1.) Figuring out the Misconceptions your Students Hold
You cannot address your students’ misconceptions if you don’t know what they are. You can identify student misconceptions by asking them questions about about a certain topic and why they think that something happens. In our video, the teacher presented the students with the situation of dropping balls with different weights at the same time. In order to figure out her students’ misconceptions she asked questions such as:
- What do you think will happen?
- Why do you think that?
- What experiences did you have that lead you to believe that?
Most importantly, when the student was done explaining her thought, the teacher lead a hands-on activity in figuring out what would actually happen and why?
2.) Allow Students to Come to Their Own Conclusion Through Hands-On Activities
Let’s kick it back to our girl Duckworth for a minute. The best way for students to realize that their misconception is false is by constructing their own knowledge through hands-on activities and experimentation.
Here’s an example of using hands-on activities to explore a misconception! In this video, the activity is “teacher lead”, but inquiry based learning developed by the students can be even more effective!
While exploring misconceptions in your classroom, there’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Be mindful of students’ backgrounds and beliefs.
- Telling students they are wrong will not be effective.
- Conceptual change will not take place if students do not want/see a need for their view to change.
- Addressing misconceptions is extremely important in science and should not be ignored!!