Lets Address the Misconception in the Room

Everyone once in their lives have believes some type misconception in science. These misconceptions are often learned as a child and have been with you since you can remember. For example, I remember from a young age in girl scouts that daddy long legs are the most venomous spider in the world but their fangs are too small to bite a human. This is something I believed for years along with many others like

  • Fish can’t blink
  • The seasons are due to the earth being closer to the sun in the summer
  • Momma birds will reject the baby if she smells human on her offspring
  • Blood is blue in the veins

Chances are if you once believed these common misconceptions, students believed them too or have different misconceptions that the bring into the classroom. However dealing with misconceptions in the classroom can be difficult for many reasons

  • Students learned these misconceptions at a young age and may refuse to think otherwise
  • If students have misconceptions in science, this may inhibit their ability to grasp new concepts
  • These misconceptions might be based on religious belief (Ex Women have one more rib than men due to Eve being given one of Adam’s ribs by god)

So how can we begin to show students what is right and what is wrong? Well let me show you the right way to guide students to truth and the wrong way. First watch this video over 5o common misconceptions held in science classrooms

Now that you have watch this video, how many of these misconceptions did you still want to argue for? How many did you disagree with and still believe? This video while it does cover a lot of misconceptions, would be an ineffective tool in telling students their misconception is wrong. Students will not change their minds about a misconception just because you say so, they change their minds when they can physically see the truth or understand the reasoning behind what is real and what is fake.

So how do we start to change a students mind on a misconception? Students need to be engaged in the process of discovery and should be allowed to explore the possibilities. For example, if a student thinks that fish don’t blink, ask them to observe a fish for a while. When the student finally sees the fish blink, they can accept that what they thought was wrong. Here are a few tips to address misconceptions

#1 Ask students why they think this

If a student believes a misconception, ask them to explain why or how they know this. During this discussions, ask student to not only explain the origin of where they learn this but why might it be true and why might it be false. Ask students questions like

  • Why do you think that?
  • Why might people think that?
  • Can you explain more about why this is true?
  • What could be another possibly explanation?
  • Where are you getting your sources?

#2 Don’t simply say that they are wrong

When dealing with misconceptions, we don’t want to accuse students of being incorrect. Not only does this not work because most students are stubborn about their preconceived misconceptions, but it can cause the student to fell embarrassed or stupid. However if students are engaged in the discovery of the truth, they can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment instead

#3 Whenever possible, engage students with hands on learning

If the misconception is something you can physically test, get the kids involve! If a student can physically see that what they thought isn’t what they are seeing, they will reshape their understanding to better comprehend what they see in front of them Below is a video that shows exactly that! This video shows the narrator not only actually having the participants conduct the experiment, but he is also asking them questions and guiding them through the process of reshaping knowledge

But what about if the concept is not something you can test in a classroom? If this is the case engage students in research and use Making Thinking visible Strategies. Use methods that engage students in argumentation, research, reading articles and making new connects. These strategies allow students to follow reason to discover the truth. You can find more about these strategies in my previous blogs below.


Why should we address misconceptions in the classroom? there are hundreds of misconceptions in the the world and it is impossible to address them all. While it’s important that you address misconceptions that may hinder a student’s learning in your classroom, its not realistic assume you can address them all. However what you can do is provide students with experience.

These experiences will teach students one of the most important things you can teach them. The ability to be a skeptic and think critically about a claim. When students leave you classroom, they need the ability to think about what a person is saying and ask if this seems credible and where they can find out if it is. This is what addressing misconceptions does, it provides student the opportunity to practice skepticism and critical thinking so that can go on to be people who don’t believe everything they hear blindly.

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