The Misconceptions of Alternate Conceptions

What even are Alternate Conceptions?

Alternate Conceptions refer to the false ideas that people hold in regard to scientific concepts. Alternate Conceptions can be used in conjunction with the word misconception. People learn throughout their lives, we constantly are learning more and more. However, sometimes this information can be wrong but we pick it up not knowing any better. Eventually, this misinformation becomes part of our book of knowledge. We do not check it since it just becomes something we know. This will lead to alternate conceptions! The thing that is unfortunate about misconceptions is that they are very popular in the science field. With the dynamic characteristic of the field of science, information can change leading to many still thinking within the old ways. We need to make sure that as teachers we educate our students and give them the opportunities to keep up and beat these misconceptions!!!

Some examples of Common Misconceptions in Science

I am focused on the biology field, which believe it or not is FILLED with misconceptions that many students have. The statements below are either true or false. Take into account your own answers to the statements below and see if even you have misconceptions about biology!

Dinosaurs and Cavemen Lived at the Same Time

This is not true! Dinosaurs lived 65 million years before cavemen came into existence.

Muscles Cells Can Push and Pull

Muscle cells can only pull! They only can contract which creates a pulling action.

The Small Intestine is Short, The Long Intestine is Long

This is false! The long intestine is around 5 feet, and the small intestine is 10-16 feet long.

Blood is Blue in Our Veins

This is false! The blood in our veins is actually red. Well, this doesn’t make sense because I can look at my arm right now and see it’s blue! It is actually red though due to the science of light. Veins reflect blue light due to them being close to the skin. Blue light does not penetrate the human tissue as deeply as red light does. So this phenomenon is due to the science of how light interacts with our bodies. So there is definitely some explanation and relearning that needs to occur in order to beat these misconceptions, we will continue to talk about this below!

Side note here is a video on some more common scientific misconceptions to be aware of as science educators!

So, how do we beat these Misconceptions?

Anyone can be affected by misconceptions, it’s human nature. As science teachers, we should expect and be prepared to take on these misconceptions our students bring. The biggest thing that teachers can use to beat misconceptions that students bring to the classroom is Reason. Reason and logic are friends to a science teacher and allow us to properly express information to give students a better idea of misconceptions. We must not come at our students and force the “right” answer onto them as they might shut down and become defensive. As teachers, we should strive to enlighten our students with information to break misconceptions. We want them to form their own ideas based on the logic and reason we provide, this is how we can start letting our students think scientifically. We want to empower our students to make their own informed decisions as this is the basis behind scientific thinking. We can shape and guide students in the learning process to help them beat their own misconceptions!

Steps to Get There

As teachers, the way we can guide our students to beat their own misconceptions can be done through multiple steps. First, we must identify where the students are obtaining their misconceptions. These often come from media and family ideas. These are deeply rooted and we must bring these to light to identify the sources of the misconceptions. We can lead a student collaborative discussion to allow the kids to talk about where these ideas come from. This will let them realize that a lot of time the sources they learned the information from is different and the reasoning can even be different from student to student.

The next step is for the teacher to add alternative explanations for our students to discover. This isn’t to be confused with the teacher telling the students the right answer but giving them the possibility of other explanations for the students to take off with. This can allow for further discussion and even debate on sides of a topic. We want to encourage scientific thinking in the classroom and this is the setup step for this.

The next step is to allow students to research the different explanations that have been presented to them. This is where they will discover their OWN answer. We want students to use inquiry and discovery to formulate their own ideas. This is true science and will lead to REAL and GENUINE learning !!!

In Summary

Misconceptions are prevalent and as educators, we need to be prepared! We must also be aware of our own misconceptions. Science is a dynamic field so keeping up with relevant information is a must for us. There are many different science news websites that educators can use to keep up with the most relevant and accurate scientific data. I will attach a few below. Honoring students’ ideas is important as the difference among us make us unique and special. We need to not punish our students for their misconceptions but use them as an opportunity to explore scientific learning!

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