Physical Science

Physical Science Misconceptions

I was reading an Earth Science Thread on common misconceptions and thought a similar discussion here might prove fruitful. As a science educator, I continue to be amazed and concerned by the misconceptions prevalent among not just students but also in the population as a whole. Yesterday I was having a discussion with by a physician about a diagnostic X-ray procedure. I reported that I was concerned about cumulative radiation exposure only to be told that "we don't use radiation, we use digital x-rays." I was speechless and left thinking that if one's command on language were poor it would be an embarrassment and why do not similar standards apply in the scientific arena?

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68505 Activity Points

Pamela: There are lots of information about Physical Science Misconceptions. http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html'' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">http://homepage.mac.com/vtalsma/syllabi/2943/handouts/misconcept.html' target="_blank">

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101490 Activity Points

Thank you for this post, it actually made it easier to find misconceptions that I needed for my assignment.

Cinthia Rodriguez
Cinthia Rodriguez
4485 Activity Points

These resources are very beneficial because today I had to remind my students that they need science no matter what field of study or career that they will be looking for later on in life. Sherene

Sherene McDonald
Sherene McDonald
22305 Activity Points

I love using Page Keeley's "Uncovering Student Ideas in Science" books, and she has one specific to physical science in the NSTA book store. I have attached a chapter to this thread. I use the probes as bell work. After students select their best answer, they prepare to defend it. I poll the class to formatively assess their initial response to the question, and through classroom debate and discussion, we slowly arrive at the correct response. I try not to interfer in their discussions, except to maybe help them when they are off track. My students recently completed a lab probe on melting ice - what happens when it is land-based or water-based? I love the ahhh moment...when they finally see for themselves and work out their misconceptions. Does anyone have other resources on lab based probes? Sue

Attachments

Just Rolling Along (Book Chapter)

Susanne Hokkanen
Susanne Hokkanen
79045 Activity Points

Hi Everyone!
One of the more comprehensive resources that I have found "free" on the internet is an older book written by Dr. Tik L. Liem. It is called Invitations to Science Inquiry. It contains hundreds of discrepant events. The Table of Contents is divided into categories like air, weather, matter, energy, etc. I would attach the pdf here, but it is 486 pages long. You can download it off the internet at Science inquirer - free stuff. Scroll down to free books, newsletters and magazines. It is a nice resource to have handy.
I am wondering if anyone has a "favorite" physical science misconception that they feel is a must to cover and how they address it in their classroom.
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

Yes--the only way to get rid of misconceptions is to have students experiment with it and get the "aha!" When I taught 8th grade physical science the hardest concept was that all objects fall at the same rate if we take away air resistance. I do not have a vacuum chamber. I told them to each devise some experiment to demonstrate this concept. One student crumpled one sheet of paper into a ball, then 2 sheets, and 3 sheets: all the same size balls. She dropped them simultaneously and of course found that they all fell at the same rate even though they had different weights (masses). Such a simple idea and so profound! Other students did similar projects using pens and pencils which are about the same size and shape but vary in weight. The fact that the students designed their own experiment was much more effective than if I had given them a standard in the classroom canned demonstration or experiment to do! Did they all "get it?" At the time, yes, but I am sure they also reverted to the old idea that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones. It just seems too illogical. The other big misconception in physical science had to do with projectile motion. Here again, students designed many demonstrations of this which they presented in class. Lots of aha's at the time but I am not sure if it really stuck. With so many virtual labs available online, through various sources (PhET is a good one)it is easier to have students explore misconceptions and hopefully correct them.

Nancy Bort
Nancy Bort
7025 Activity Points

Nancy Thanks for that idea. I really like it and plan to try it too. One concept my students struggle with is buoyancy. Almost all believe that when you off-load a "boat" and the cargo sinks to the bottom of a fixed container of water that the level of the water will go up. I have created a simulation using crystallizing dishes and tupperware boats filled with pennies. What has astonished me is the number of students who faced with evidence still initially report the water level went up. We often need to repeat the experiment before everyone "sees" what actually happened.

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68505 Activity Points

Pamela, I have my students construct the concept of Archimedes Principle by doing the following: 1. They have a series of objects: marble, cork, candle, rock, paper clip, etc. The objects need to be able to fit into a graduated cylinder. 2. They weigh each object. We also discuss the fact that since the density of water is 1g/ML, we know how much the water weighs. 3. Put 50 mL of water into cylinder and carefully put in the object. Record the water displaed. 4. They construct a chart: weight of object water displaced weight of water displaced sink or float? 5. They will find that some of the heaviest objects (piece of candle) actually float--BUT if they look they will see that that object displaced the a weight of water equal to or greater than the weight of the object. This is a super simple lab and has great results! I love the aha's the students get when they figure this out. I tell them, they can then take off their clothes and run naked through the halls yelling Eureka! I preface the lab with the story of Archimedes and the king's crown. I guess I need to be careful about the naked part--no one has yet taken me up on it...but you never know. However, they are permitted to yell Eureka. I also give them a homework assignment (WITH PARENT PERMISSION AND APPROVAL) to see what happens inside the toilet tank when it is flushed. They need to be careful as the tops are procelain and can break if dropped. Interesting also to discuss the difference between the float type devices that are at the end of a metal lever and those that are the all in one type shut off devices. Both work on the same principle to close the valve.

Nancy Bort
Nancy Bort
7025 Activity Points

Thank you Nancy I love this!

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68505 Activity Points

Nancy Have you been following the discussion on density on the physical science list serve? I think that this lab would be a wonderful addition to the thread. If you do not follow this list serve, I would like to repost this with your permission. Pam

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68505 Activity Points

Thank you, Pamela. You may put this on the physical science listserv. I am not on that. I am on several listservs, one for physics, but not this one. Go forth with my blessing! I am into sharing. Nancy

Nancy Bort
Nancy Bort
7025 Activity Points

Thank you, Pam. You may put this on the physical science listserv. I am not on that. I am on several listservs, one for physics, but not this one. Go forth with my blessing! I am into sharing. Nancy

Nancy Bort
Nancy Bort
7025 Activity Points

As I read through this thread, I was reminded of an excellent resource dealing with misconceptions that has not been mentioned here yet. It is a book called "Making Sense of Secondary Science" by Rosalind Driver. This book does not only deal with 'secondary" ( high school) science which was my first mistaken belief but deals with misconceptions beginning early in students' education.

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33445 Activity Points

As I reread the posts in this discussion thread, I became curious to see what resources were posted in the NSTA conference communities on sinking, floating, and density. I came across a pdf posted by a presenter at the Philadelphia conference that connected density activities with water pollution. I am attaching it - it pdf is called Floaty the Boaty. I love that NSTA has presenter resources available at the NSTA Communities area of the NSTA website.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

More geared towards astronomy perhaps, but this link http://www.badastronomy.com/index.html touches on some misconceptions with science. His blog is a good read to.

Chris Rupert
Chris Rupert
3530 Activity Points

http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/movies/ And a link to some popular scifi movies where students pick up on some of their preconceived notions

Chris Rupert
Chris Rupert
3530 Activity Points

I like using videos in physics. Funny that with digital effects the physics effects are getting further away from reality instead of closer. Some of the older films had problems because the stunts were too difficult without.

Daniel Carroll
Dan Carroll
18550 Activity Points

I was thinking about misconceptions again and I realized that I had not mentioned Page Keeley's books Uncovering Students' Ideas which has a section on misconceptions on every probe in the book. Page has done ALL the research for us in many different content areas. Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
33445 Activity Points

My Private Universe opens at a Harvard graduation. As students exit the stage they are asked basic astronomy questions. Watch and weep http://www.learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=9 http://www.learner.org/resources/series28.html?pop=yes&pid=9

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68505 Activity Points

This is such an important topic, and I'm so happy to see a thread that discusses student misconception. As soon as I read the first post in this thread I immediately thought of Page Keeley's Uncovering Student Idea book series. I thrilled to see that Susanne and Kathy both suggested using these resources, too. Nancy, thank you so much for sharing your lesson ideas for gravity, projectile motion and buoyancy! I'm adding your Archimedes' Principle lesson to my idea bank!
The Physics Education website has a great resource called
Targeting Students' Physical Science Misconceptions Using the Conceptual Change Model. There is also a very good article in the ERIC digest about misconceptions:
Science Misconceptions Research and Some Implications for the Teaching of Science to Elementary School Students. ERIC/SMEAC Science Education Digest No. 1, 1987

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
40810 Activity Points

Dan said, "I like using videos in physics. Funny that with digital effects the physics effects are getting further away from reality instead of closer. Some of the older films had problems because the stunts were too difficult without." Of course there is nothing further from reality than the physics of Roadrunner cartoons. My son's physics teacher used them often. My son would come home excited to explain to me what was real and not (and why) in particular cartoon segments.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

Thanks to all of you for talking about using videos in physics teaching. The references are great and so useful to everyone. I am wondering how many take small videos for the analysis and gathering of data. My students love digitizing video to explain hard-to-see physics content and explain the gathering and analysis of data. The new app for the IPhone is pretty cool, too, in the minds of many students and teachers who can use this technology. Many teachers physics teachers encourage students to share their videos with others on teachertube or utube as well. I know that using video as a tool for analysis differes from the conversations so far on this thread, so I am wondering if anyone does video analysis with students. ~ patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Many people have misconceptions about what causes the phases of the moon. Has this been address often and thoroughly? As a middle school teacher, I try to create a clear model of the phases when teaching this. I find taking a styrofoam ball on a stick and coloring half of it then having it revolve around the "sun". Students are placed at either the perspective of the sun, or Earth as I go around the room. Very helpful...... Any thoughts?

Nancy Browne
Nancy Browne
235 Activity Points

Nancy,
Your hands-on activity is a fantastic way to start getting students to visualize the phases of the moon. Researching common misconceptions can be a powerful aid in effective instruction. In order to locate the resources available on misconceptions about the phases of the moon, I entered "moon misconceptions" in the search box, and then filtered my results by selecting "middle school".

The search results included an NSTA journal article Teaching for Conceptual Change in Space Science from Science Scope (Middle School Teachers' journal). Each article is free if you are a member of NSTA an 99 cents if you are not. This article is based off the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ video, A Private Universe, and is based on misconceptions Harvard graduates had on space science. I loved telling my students they were about to learn something that Harvard graduates answered wrong. Middle school students love to be authorities!
Nancy, please keep us posted on your lesson, I love learning new activities (and student misconceptions).
Thank You,
Angie


Angie Fairweather
Angelika Fairweather
11885 Activity Points

Currently in my class each of us were given the task to plan a two-week science unit. I decided to teach a unit on simple machines and explore the often avoided physical science. I think there are misconceptions about physical science even among pre-service teachers or even completely overlooked. As part of the two-week unit assignment we have to create a concept map of our topic and an analysis of the misconceptions. This thread has provided a lot more insight on the misconceptions of physical science and how they can also apply to teaching simple machines! UMBC teacher candidate, Katherine Kim

Katherine Kim
Katherine Kim
405 Activity Points

Hi Nancy and welcome to the discussion thread. I hope you will have a chance to check out another thread at the Earth and Space Science Discussion Forum. It is titled Misconceptions about Winter and Sun Distance, so one might not realize that there are some resources there that might help answer your questions about moon misconceptions.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

Hi Katherine,
I am not sure if you have already completed your simple machines unit or not, but I just wanted to mention that the Learning Center has gobs of resources on this topic. I typed in "simple machines" as an advanced search and 27 resources appeared. Two of special note are:
Dr. Bill Robertson's archived webinar: Energy: Stop Faking It!
and
NASA's External Resource: The NASA SciFiles: The Case of the Powerful Pulleys
Good luck with your unit!
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

Teaching for Conceptual Change: Confronting Children's Experiences Watson,Bruce and Richard Kopnicek Phi Delta Kappan May 1990 pp 680-684 This is one of the articles and professors who inspired Page Keeley on her work on uncovering student ideas. Great read about a fourth grade teacher delving into her students ideas about why their mittens and hats 'keep them warm' Arlene JL

Attachments

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
42030 Activity Points

Jim Minstrell has been involved in cognitive research and student prior conceptions for since the late 70's/ early 80's and has been a colleague of many research groups listed in this thread. One of Jim's abilities is to interview students to assess their understanding and to evaluate misconceptions. There are several wonderful sites where you can read about his research and actually use tests in his Diagnoser. Jim's FACET url is: http://www.facetinnovations.com/daisy-public-website/fihome/home Here is his Diagnoser login page: http://www.diagnoser.com/diagnoser/ Teachers may just sign up and access the tests - use them with students, too. There are ways to access student responses and analyze them. The neat thing about the Diagnoser questions is the gentle feedback that is delivered and cyber-nudges delivered if questions are answered incorrectly. Diagnoser is a very thoughtful resource. ~patty ps Jim Minstrell also has book resources and chapters available via the Learning Center; articles are available as well. Much of his work also correlates with some of the threads that deal with language issues in the classroom as well as learning to read - to read- and reading to learn science. Minds On-Hands-on-POE --such powerful strategies ~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Hi Margaret and All, With enough time in the day, we all would read everything --there is such depth in our resources. I'm attaching 2 more on misconceptions and teaching strategies that I believe are wonderful. "Using Questions to Assess & Foster Student Thinking" - Minstrell and " Addressing Misconceptions" by Rosalind Driver and her team. Often, I put resources that I don't want to lose in my personal library (on the LC) and also make a little goal/task in my PD portfolio to remind me to look at them. I find this to me a great motivator. ~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45895 Activity Points

Chris said, "
And a link to some popular scifi movies where students pick up on some of their preconceived notions..."

I agree, Chris. The movies and news media are sources our students place a lot of 'faith' in as factual. The March 2011 issue of Science Scope has an article under Myths, Misconceptions, & Misunderstanding: Alien contact-Proof Positive or a Case of Let's Play Pretend?
It highlights some of the infamous notions like the Roswell incident (1947) in New Mexico and the scifi movie Contact (1997.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

This refers to Kathy' post on "Making Sense of Secondary Science" by Rosalind Driver. It is an excellent material based on in-depth coverage of `Alternative frameworks' of students. (I have been using ideas from the book since the early '80s when I began reading `School Science Review' and `Education in Science', published by the Association for Science Education, UK).

Guruprasad Panamalai
Panamalai R Guruprasad
625 Activity Points

Thank you, Panamalai and Kathy, for mentioning the resource, "Making Sense of Secondary Science" by Rosalind Driver. With two of you giving it such great reviews, I am going to get a copy! Panamalai, can you tell us any specific ideas that you use from the book? Kathy, the fact that it has good material for all grade levels is a real plus.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79623 Activity Points

Going back to videos and science, what better way to impede misconceptions than to point out flaws in movies from a scientific perspective! It teaches students not only to watch a movie or television show much closer but gives them the power to argue using a science based approach. I can envision using a different movie for various sections throughout a unit. The lesson could include a brief 10 to 15 minute focus on a specific point in a movie that defies everything science has taught us. As the students become accustomed to watching video through a scientific lens they will hopefully become more attune to everyday science around them.

John Randolph
John Randolph
300 Activity Points

Thanks Carolyn. I have used several examples from the book. One of these is how students mix up `melting' and `dissolving'. In the book, a card activity (in which students categorize different processes as either `melting' or `dissolving', depending upon the process described in each card). In my classes, I used to give some homework asking students to observe their parent/s cooking and come with their explanations. This would pave way for discussions and eventually to the distinction between the two. I used to demonstrate salt `dissolving' in water contained in a transparent plastic container (with water up to the brim), without spilling any water at all. This used to be a launchpad for a later lesson on `diffusion'.

Guruprasad Panamalai
Panamalai R Guruprasad
625 Activity Points

Thanks Carolyn. I have used several examples from the book. One of these is how students mix up `melting' and `dissolving'. The book contains a card activity (in which students categorize different processes as either `melting' or `dissolving', depending upon the process described in each card). In my classes, I used to give some homework asking students to observe their parent/s cooking and come with their explanations. This would pave way for discussions and eventually to the distinction between the two. As an individual hands on activity, my students used to observe salt `dissolving' in water contained in a transparent plastic container (with water up to the brim), without spilling any water at all. (This used to be a launchpad for a later lesson on `diffusion').

Guruprasad Panamalai
Panamalai R Guruprasad
625 Activity Points

John's viewpoint of using movies is indeed a very worthwhile activity that children would enjoy. This is what I would call `edutainment'. Thanks, John.

Guruprasad Panamalai
Panamalai R Guruprasad
625 Activity Points

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