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
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!