Forum: Teachers Lab

Topic: How do students develop scientific misconceptions?

Topic Posted by: Linda W. Braun ([email protected] )
Date Posted: Sat Jan 30 7:45:01 US/Eastern 1999
Topic Description: How do you think students develop scientific misconceptions? What are ways you know to help students overcome these?

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Posted by:Pasha ([email protected] )
Date posted: Fri Oct 21 11:40:02 2005
Subject: Cool
You Cool Site!

Posted by: Amber Namitz
Date posted: Thu Sep 30 15:57:35 2004
Subject: Misconceptions
I am doing a research paper at Western Oregon University about prior knowledge research and the link to misconceptions. Do you have any info you would like to share with me? Thanks

Posted by: Ruth Tekell ([email protected] )
Date posted: Tue Aug 6 14:15:02 2002
Subject: How to foster a misconception, etc.
First check out this website: --the website for A Private Universe Project - "What are your ideas."

The survey asks you five questions and gives you the "correct" answers. One of the questions is "which of the following responses most closely explains why it is hotter in New York in June than it is in December?" Answer choices are:

A. The Sun gives off more heat energy in June.
B. Earth is closer to the Sun in June.
C. The Northern Hemisphere is closer to the Sun in June.
D. The Sun is higher in the sky and and provides more hours of daylight in June.

If you chose "C" you'd be right, at least according to my college astronomy book. But you'd be wrong according to "The Private Universe Project." The correct answer according to them is "D." The REASON that the sun is higher in the sky is that the Northern Hemisphere is closer to the Sun. So if you teach a child that D is the correct answer, and that C is incorrect, it seems to imply that THE SUN IS MOVING. If C is incorrect, how else could its location in the sky have moved? Also, when you offer such an answer as D, you have probably settled the issue for the child, at least for the time being. So he or she may not try to find out why the sun seems to move. How unfortunate.

In my opinion, the correct way to go about teaching the concept of seasons, is to start with the earth's orbit around the sun and it's tilt. Then ask, "how do these things affect the earth?" You start at the beginning, conceptually, not somewhere in the middle.

No one knows exactly how or certainly why the primordial soup eventually came together to form atoms, but we do know that it did and we know what happened next. Why not start with the first, most fundamental thing we know, rather than the last, most complex things we know?

I've noticed the same kind of mistake in approaching biology and chemistry. Students don't seem to have a grasp of the particulate nature of matter and yet they are introduced to plant biology and processes that involve starches, carbohydrates, CO2, O2, without even realizing that all mass is made up of things that are very small, that the fundamental building blocks of all of creation have mass and are too small to see.

Why do we teach biology, then chemistry, then physics? It happened in the reverse order; why not teach it in that order? Instead of bombarding our children with thousands of counter-intuitive facts and expecting them to piece it all together in a meaningful way, why not give them a half a dozen or so counter-intuitive facts that would explain all the rest of science and MAKE IT INTUITIVE?

Well, I believe I can tell you why. And the reason I can tell you is that I have taught physics labs for years at the college level and 95% of my students were future teachers. In general, these student were absolutely phobic about physics concepts. They had usually put off taking the class until their last semester because it was the most dreaded of all their classes. And it doesn't even require College Algebra.

We need to get past this somehow because we are producing generation after generation of adults who are not interested in and are incapable of critical thought, who cannot distinguish between a good argument--a logical one, and an illogical one, who are destined to be victims in a society that takes advantage of this weakness. We are scrambling the brains of all but the most gifted children by teaching them science in the worst possible way.

I'm 46, I've been an educator at the college level, a writer, and above all, a scientist. I'd like to be an educator at the k-12 level, but I won't do it until the education system supports a more logical approach to science education.

[email protected]

Posted by: masroor ([email protected] )
Date posted: Wed Jul 10 10:52:34 2002
Subject: how students can improve
they can be proper help of their teachers which have a good concepts and by the help of scintific museums by govt
provided real time
Posted by: cindy Hynes
Date posted: Mon Oct 1 18:20:22 2001
Subject: Misconceptions
I am doing a science project in university about elementary kids and there misconceptions about science. I also need a describtion of thier misconception and how they came about this.

Posted by: Andrew Njaa ([email protected] )
Organization:Falmouth HS / Concord Consortium
Date posted: Mon Feb 22 14:18:57 US/Eastern 1999
Subject: Physics / Chem
I find the idea of tracing the origins of student misconceptions to be fascinating. For example, the idea that the earth is warmer in the summer because it is closer to the sun during that time, seems to call on fundamental true knowledge. In other words, the 3 year old learns that it is warmer next to the fire. Therefore, it is only logical to assume that the earth is nearer the sun in the summer. At least, that is the quickest/easiest response. It takes further steps to work up to answers for the consequences of this view. Why is it winter in the southern hemisphere when it is summer here up north? Then there is the idea of longer time, higher temp, again, another step up in sophistication.
I think as teachers, the most important tool you can give a student is not the "understanding" of a particular problem, like the phases of the moon or whatever. Rather, I need to get them to take a few minutes to ask what the consequences of their assumptions are.
Posted by: Tom Hocking ([email protected] )
Organization:International Planetarium Society, Inc.
Date posted: Wed Feb 17 19:06:38 US/Eastern 1999
Subject: Hello and Welcome!
As a planetarian, I have had this conversation numerous times, and have shown the original Project Universe tape several times to groups of teachers and students.
I was one of the satellite workshop coordinators at one of the remote sites. Most of the misconceptions tend to be misPERceptions in my experience. By allowing the students to recognize and confront them there is a chance that changes in understanding can be made. My wish in posting this is to fuel the discussion and see what you think!

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