April 4, 2018

SCIENCE

Strategy: Confronting Misconceptions

We’re making great progress in analyzing our data through CJA action plans, helping us understand what misconceptions our students have.  But how do then resolve these misconceptions?

As discussed in the NAP’s Science Teaching Reconsidered, resolving a misconception is not as simple as providing a new, correct answer.

“Recent research on students’ conceptual misunderstandings of natural phenomena indicates that new concepts cannot be learned if alternative models that explain a phenomenon already exist in the learner’s mind. Although scientists commonly view such erroneous models with disdain, they are often preferred by the learner because they seem more reasonable and perhaps are more useful for the learner’s purpose.”

Instead, students must confront their misconception before replacing it with a new explanation of a phenomenon.

Jess and Amal from KAL came up with a great example of this to address a misconception from the Earth, Moon, and Sun CJA.  The misconception (as seen from test answers) was that the closer the moon is to the sun, the more of it is illuminated. While this is incorrect, it is easy to see why a student may fall into this misconception.

Rather than simply correct this mistake, Jess and Amal plan to have kids test the concept using the Amplify simulation.  By doing this, they can see the flaw in the explanation and therefore be open to a more correct explanation.

As you use your CJA action plan to prepare for addressing misconceptions, do not forget this key step of having students confront their current explanations first!