Teacher’s Toolkit: Misconceptions in the science classroomby: Michael DiSpezio

Journal ArticleDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

To address misconceptions, teachers first need to uncover them. Although misconceptions will surely emerge as you move through a lesson, it’s best to identify them prior to new learning. Here’s where the role of preassessment goes beyond uncovering what students don’t know, but expands to identifying what they have misconceived. This article examines a handful of misconceptions that are representative of the variety of mistaken beliefs held by both students and educators alike.

  • Middle
Publication Date

Community ActivitySaved in 1050 Libraries

Reviews (7)
  • on Wed Nov 28, 2018 7:30 PM

No matter what kind of class, once the teacher teaches students new knowledge, students often have misconceptions about some problems or concepts. In order to resolve the misconceptions, we should know what the misconception is. The author of this article shows us five types of misconceptions, namely misconceived notions, conceptual misconceptions, preconceived notions, vernacular misconceptions, and non-science beliefs. For each form of misconception, the author provides us with the example. He thinks the teacher can use the formative assessment to help students to explain the reasons that make them made the wrong decisions. In addition, the author has provided us with some valuable websites which help us to know the misconceptions that the students may have on specific topics. I think this is a good article which teaches us how to face the different types of misconceptions in class. I will use the website he provided in my future class to help me know the possible misconceptions that the students may have in the certain topic, then I will use this information to design the formative assessments and the content of the prior knowledge. In addition, I may not highlight the misconception with the special intention repeatedly, because I think overemphasis the misconception may lead to confusion in students'mind.


  • on Sat Jul 30, 2016 1:00 PM

It is a good idea to use the web for ideas before starting any new units to see if there are any misconceptions about what you are about to teach. We should plan activities that will allow the students to communicate with their peers, and let them interact with hands on hand activities. These activities helps to activate prior knowledge and help to build on to their learning. Students who participates and communicates their ideas can change what and how they use their conceptual skills. Misconceptions related to my unit: 1.Students may think that condensation is when air turns into a liquid instead of thinking condensation is water vapor in the air that cools enough to become a liquid. 2. Students may think that steam is hot air instead of thinking steam is water vapor. 3. Students may think that ice molecules are colder than water molecules instead of thinking that ice molecules have less kinetic energy than water molecules. 4. Students may think that water is an open container that is absorbed by the container, disappears, changes into air, or dries up and goes into the air instead of thinking water is an open container that evaporates, changing from a liquid to a gas.

Dorothy Patterson
Dorothy Patterson

  • on Sat Jul 30, 2016 12:37 PM

There are many different reason why students do the things that they do. Some of the misconceptions that the students have were formed outside of the classroom. The misconceptions deals with the personal experiences that they go through on a daily basis. It is important that I listen to the students that I teach when there is a class discussion. I also need to pay close attention to what they say and what they writ

Dorothy Patterson
Dorothy Patterson

  • on Tue May 24, 2011 10:49 AM

Misconceptions can be split into conceptual misconceptions, preconceived notions, and nonscience beliefs. The author describes each of these and provides examples of each. He believes that students should be able to explain why they made the choices they did and this can be done through formative assessment. Included in this article are valuable websites that will allow the reader to research misconceptions that their students might have. This is a good article to help a teacher to not only identify but rectify misconceptions.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Sun Aug 07, 2016 8:15 PM

The teacher should first address students misconceptions by finding out what they know about the lesson that is going to be taught. The rest will emerge while teaching the lesson.The best way to solve the problem is develop an effective assessment. Make a list of the students and check off things they know and don't know.

Carol Arrington-Sims
Carol Arrington-Sims

  • on Sun Jun 03, 2012 12:05 PM

This article discusses misconceptions and describes several types and gives examples. But the article is not easy to follow through as it seems to ramble a bit. The list of websites at the end of the article is very useful.

Betty  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:34 PM

The author presents arguments about when and why we should determine student misconceptions. He provides information on where to find out which misconceptions are most common and sometimes material to test for the misconceptions. The entire article is a defense of the idea that to teach students new materials one MUST identify misconceptions and the types they may hold but does not provide information on how to address those misconceptions - that is left to the teacher. While I agree about sharing the importance of this, I would have liked a shorter defense and multiple examples of ways to identify misconceptions. The strategies to correct them should come with teaching experience, but is was important to provide locations for lesson ideas, and that was good of the author to provide such.

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

Free - NSTA Members

$1.29 - Nonmembers

Login or Create a Free Account to add this resource to your library.