Early Childhood

Science Misconceptions

How do you overcome Science Misconceptions that many students will have coming into your classrooms? What is the best way to handle and appraoch situations when religion is involved? 

Mary Beth Dickson
Mary Beth Dickson
395 Activity Points

Hello Mary Beth,

Many misconceptions abound in almost every topic we could study in science!  You may want to look for some resources to help anticipate some common misconceptions by searching The Learning Center  and other sources.  An excellent method to uncover misconceptions is to poll your students’ prior knowledge.  I agree with Melissa that you can start off a unit or topic with a KWL activity and read over what your students are bringing into the classroom.  If you are finding misconceptions and partial truths then use them as springboards for teaching the nature of science.  Structuring investigations that give empirical evidence is probably the most powerful way to combat misconceptions.  Have the students draw conclusions from their data and discuss.  If the misconception is difficult to prove in class then turn to good, reliable sources of information.  Teach students how to differentiate between reputable and poor sources.  So, questioning the moon landings, for instance, can be a vehicle for teaching scientific argumentation, using primary sources, and so on.

With respect to faith: 

It probably needs no saying, but do not ever put down or question anyone’s faith.  Your job is to teach science not to produce a secular society.  Borrowing a few lines from NSTA’s position statement on Teaching Science in the Context of Societal and Personal Issues, science instruction should:

·       approach decisions based on scientific evidence in an open unbiased way, while acknowledging that different perspectives, views, beliefs, and other ways of knowing exist;

·       prepare students to become future citizens who understand science and engineering and are willing to engage in making responsible and informed decisions.

It’s ok to teach that science and faith work differently but your class will teach science and how science works.  I don’t believe that faith should have any footing in a science class much the same way that we don’t teach German in French language classes.

Hope this helps.

Gabe Kraljevic

Gabe Kraljevic
Gabe Kraljevic
4164 Activity Points

With science misconceptions, I like to look up what misconceptions students may have before I teach a lesson so that I can address them and disprove them throughout the lesson. Another way to find misconceptions is by asking questions before teaching a lesson to provoke thought and see where the students thinking is at. AS far as religion goes, that is a personal thing and if you think it will be of conflict with ones religion, send a notice home to parents and assign students different tasks for that time. 

Drew Foster
Drew Foster
2640 Activity Points

Hi Mary Beth

That is tricky.  So much depends on the age of the students and how deeply the religion is embedded into those beliefs as well as your own school culture. Have you talked with other teachers at the school?  Are these misconceptions pervasive in the general local community?  Can you and your fellow teachers work together on this?

Another factor is the misconception itself.  Is this something that is a typical misconception for the student's age?  What strategies can you use?  Would providing experiences to develop better background information be useful?  Will better background information allow the misconception to resolve?

Two other strategies that work with my students – again depending upon the misconception and the student :  The first is being silly, and carrying the misconception out logically.  The second is asking the students how they know that.  Joe Robinson wrote an excellent article that includes some ideas.  “How We Know What We Know” that you can find in the learning center.

Anne Lowry
Anne Lowry
5690 Activity Points

Hi Mary Beth,

I found a few articles that discuss strategies to help with misconceptions, especially in the elementary or early childhood classroom. 

First, an article about using misconceptions to lead to sense making: https://common.nsta.org/resource/default.aspx?id=10.2505%2f4%2fsc16_053_07_28

Then, an article specifically discussion the misconceptions that young students bring to the classroom about light: https://common.nsta.org/resource/default.aspx?id=10.2505%2f4%2fsc12_050_02_30

Finally, an article with a list of common misconceptions that anyone can (and may still) have: https://common.nsta.org/resource/default.aspx?id=10.2505%2f4%2fsc06_043_06_62

I hope some of these may be helpful! Does anyone else have specific strategies to work with misconceptions students may bring to science class?

-Megan

Megan Doty
Megan Doty
11847 Activity Points

Hi Ms. Dickson,

I am currently a preservice teacher and am basing my answers on previous experiences, conversations with teachers, and my current coursework.   

I feel that the best way to approach misconceptions is to first gauge the students’ knowledge about the science topic.  I feel that completing a K-W-L chart will greatly assist you in understanding what prior knowledge they have where some of their misconceptions will be expressed.  You can address these misconceptions by explaining and providing scientific facts, knowledge, and support during your lesson.  When you revisit the chart, hopefully students no longer have these misconceptions.  If they still do, readdress and reiterate information that dispels these misunderstandings.  Misconceptions can take a long time for any person at any age to overcome, so children will need time as well.  I personally feel that the best way is to just teach and reteach the lesson if necessary to help your students better understand the topic.   

In regards to your second question, I would explain to students that your goal as a teacher is not to sway or change their religious beliefs but to provide them with information and data collected from the scientific community.  As teachers, we should never impose our personal beliefs and opinions in regards to religion.

-Melissa

Melissa Biddinger
Melissa Biddinger
435 Activity Points

Hi Mary,

I am currently a student at the University of Northern Iowa and am enrolled in a Science Methods course. We have been working on a mini-unit lesson plan and have had to address common misconceptions students may have in our science lessons. One way that we have been addressing their misconceptions is determining what they are and then showing them pictures and videos to help them process what the misconception may be for example some students think that chameleons change color to look pretty but they actually change color to blend into their environment or hide from prey. In order to address this misconception we showed them a video of a chameleon changing colors to camouflage itself from prey. Another way to address their misconceptions is to use a KLEWS chart, which is kind of like a KWL. KLEWS= What you think you know, what we are learning, what evidence do you have to support your answer (observations, data), what are you wondering, and scientific concepts or new words.

 

-Hannah Heissel

Hannah Heissel
Hannah Heissel
2580 Activity Points

Mary,

I am also a student at the University of Northern Iowa. I am currently enrolled in science methods. Children have a lot of misconceptions that can be addressed in science units! Using a KLEWS chart of waht you think you know, what we are learning, what evidence do you have to support this answer, what are you wondering, and what scientific concepts or new words were introduced. This is a great way for you and your students to have conversations and figure out what everyone is thinking and why. This also gives the children a physcial piece to look at. You can also create science lead activites to address the misconceptions, that is what our group did. We also showed videos and pictures. We first wanted to see what the kids knew and what they thought about the different pictures. Then we addressed those. I hope this helps.

 

Morgan Siems

Morgan Siems
Morgan Siems
2160 Activity Points

Mary,

Adressing science misconceptions is a great way to start a lesson. By asking students what they think of a certain topic or phenomena is a good way to first see what they may already know, but to also see where they might be confused about a topic. A way address the misconceptions throught out the whole lesson would be by having the students fill out a KLEWS chart, about what they think they know, what they want to learn or are learning, and what they still might be wondering about. Misconceptions can a helpful way to address new topics and help them to build on their prior knowledge, even if it's not all accurate. When planning for a lesson it's important to think about what misconceptions students having going in, and how to address these without making students feel dumb for thinking the way they did. Addressing the misconceptions early will only make the students understanding of a topic grow. 

Kate Campbell
Kate Campbell
1820 Activity Points

Religion is a tricky topic to teach, especially to young students. If you think that the lesson/unit is in which will have in depth questions, and could possibly offend a student, I would send home a newsletter to the parents discussing what you will be teaching. I would also encourage the parents to talk to their student before the lesson is taught. That way, the students and families can prepare themselves for the conversations and questions that might arise.
Before I teach a lesson, I think about possible misconceptions the students might have. I tend to address those right away, and show the students why that is not correct. I also begin the lesson with asking students questions, hopefully that will pull out any misconceptions they might have. I have found the easiest way to correct a misconception- is to try it! This lets the students have a hands on experience, to where they can closely see and understand what is being taught.

Allison Finkbeiner
Allison Finkbeiner
1130 Activity Points

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