Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Common Misconceptions in Science

Plants can only reproduce asexually. Daughters inherit most of their characteristics from their mothers and sons from their fathers. Eating sugar causes kids to become hyperactive. These are all examples of common misconceptions.

A misconception is defined as: a belief that contradicts the currently accepted state of scientific evidence.

science myths misconceptions unexplained-events •
Commonly held misconceptions

Throughout history, common misconceptions have been passed down from generation to generation. Whether it’s for religious beliefs or just simple misunderstandings, it is important to address these and understand what makes them misconceptions.

When it comes to teaching science in the classroom, it can be difficult to address these misconceptions and discuss them with your students, for several reason:

  • The misconception is derived from a religious belief
  • The misconception is something that the student learned at a very young age
  • The misconception is something that is believed by all of the student’s family
  • It is human behavior to construct ideas based on prior knowledge
  • Students base ideas off past experiences which can be incomplete and incorrect

Here is a video that gives some interesting misconceptions that are commonly held in the science community!

Clearly misconceptions in the science classroom are an issue that every teacher has. So the question is, how do we address them? Here are a few tips:

Tip #1: Help students understand why you want them to change their belief

In order for students to change their belief, they first need to understand why they are doing so. If a student has held a certain belief for the majority of their lifetime, they may not want to change it unless they are shown exactly why they need to.

Addressing Teacher Turnover in Public Schools
Explain to your students why it is important to understand a certain topic fully.

Tip #2: Use Hands-On-Learning

One of the biggest tools you can use in helping students understand why a certain idea is a misconception is using hands on experiments to allow students to see first hand an explanation for something.

An example of this would be that there is a dark side of the moon. If you set up an experiment with a lamp at the center and a moon revolving around it, students can see that what appears to be a dark side of the moon is just a shadow cast on the moon based on its position.

Moon Phases Activity | NASA/JPL Edu
An example of a moon phases experiment
Understanding Astronomy: The Moon and Eclipses

Tip #3: Addressing What Is Appropriate Inside vs. Outside the Classroom

Addressing certain misconceptions can be a sticky situation. For example, a religious student might believe that humans walked the earth at the same time as dinosaurs. While their religion might tell them this, the scientific community disagrees.

Science Vs Religion Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from ...
Science vs. Religion

In these types of situations, it’s crucial to tell your students that they have the freedom to believe what they want to believe outside the classroom. However, in the science classroom, you must follow the ideas that the science community accepts.

Helping your students to understand that your classroom has specific rules and accepted theories can help to crush the common misconceptions that are seen in the classroom and allow for more complete and thorough learning and understanding of the scientific world.

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