Are you sure?: Identification and Correction of Misconceptions in the Science Classroom

Every year new students come will come into our classrooms with their own beliefs and preconceived notions. Sometimes these notions include incorrect understandings of scientific phenomena, known as misconceptions. So as teachers, we need to know how to identify these misconceptions and ensure our students come to correctly understand the content.

What causes Misconceptions?

  • Students personal experiences that have been misinterpreted
  • Incorrect memorization of concepts in prior classrooms
  • Students own cultural or religious beliefs
  • Students have been told incorrect information

How do we identify Misconceptions?

The most direct way to identify student’s misconceptions is to create scenarios that allow students to share their prior knowledge. This can be done in many ways including:

  • Having class discussions about the topic prior to instruction
  • Use a chalk talk to look at everyone’s understandings at once
  • Have students complete a K-W-L Chart
  • Ask students to discuss with their peers and compare ideas

It is very important that when identifying misconceptions, we are careful not to offend or demean anyone due to their misunderstandings. Having discussions about prior knowledge can be intimidating to some students, so using MTV strategies is a great tool!

How do we correct Misconceptions?

The only way to change a misconceptions is to justify the correct information with your own experience and understandings. To help students do this, we can:

  • Provide student centered activities in which students can explore their misconceptions
  • Have students debate their ideas with peers and listen to others justifications
  • Ask students to research why their misconception is incorrect
  • Develop and justify concept maps
Here are some misconceptions you may encounter in your students!

Encountering students with misconceptions is inevitable in our future classrooms. It is important that as educators we are capable of identifying these misconceptions and correcting them to ensure our students are on the right path!


  1. Hey Natalie! I really enjoyed reading your post. It was very concise and filled with great ideas for facilitating conceptual change, especially by using MTV strategies. You talked a little bit about making sure you don’t offend your students about their beliefs and misunderstandings. How would you plan on going about addressing a student who has a cultural belief that contradicts what you are teaching in class without offending them or making them feel like the teachings in their own culture are wrong?

  2. I really liked the Ted talk Natalie, great addition! I think it was really important to include the part about being cautious about exposing students’ misconceptions in a demeaning way, even if they aren’t culturally related. What kind of “student-centered activities” would you use?

  3. Good job on your post Natalie! I really liked how you listed different ways to identify misconceptions – I think it was great that you utilized MTV strategies since students may feel intimidated to share their thoughts. I also liked that you gave different ways to help students combat their misconceptions. I was wondering how you were planning to test whether the misconceptions were addressed/ corrected. Do you have any strategies that you plan to use in your classroom?

    • I think testing to see if the students have overcome their misconceptions is very important. If you do not do this, your students may still hold onto misconceptions that you are unaware of. I think doing a pre/post test could be very useful to visualize and analyze the students progress. I also think a MTV strategies such as “i used to think, now I think” could be used to accomplish this as well.

  4. Great post Natalie! I really liked how when you were probing for student misconceptions you employed a lot of making thinking visible strategies. I think that these are great too. One problem I might see with some of these (maybe like the chalk talk) is that students will see that their answers and responses are different than their peers so they change it so that they do not stick out. Do you see this happening? And if so, how would you combat it?

    • I think that is absolutely a possibility and not one that I previously thought about, so thank you for bringing that up! I think that having students write their answers on a post it note before putting it on the board could eliminate some of these issues. However, I really think providing students with the opportunity to see and hear other student’s thoughts and beliefs is very important.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Unveiling the Link: How Bad Memories Fuel the Rise of Fake News - Know More Stuff

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.