After reading this week’s selections and watching the video, I realized to what an immense degree misconceptions can make our jobs even more challenging, especially when they aren’t immediately clear. The possibility of hidden misconceptions in one that has been stuck in my mind. For example, when Heather was initially questioned in “Private Universe”, it appeared that she had a good understanding of the concepts. When the depth and wording of the questions changed, however, it became clear that her interpretation and understanding was not entirely accurate. If the further questioning had never occurred, these misconceptions may never have been adequately identified. In “Constructivism and Student Misconceptions: Why Every Teacher Needs to Know About Them,” Audrey Sewell explains that it is possible that students develop parallel but mutually inconsistent explanations of scientific concepts, using one in a school context to ‘pass the test’ and the other in the ‘real world.’ Such a situation presents challenges to us as educators, because we may not even be aware that misconceptions exist or what they actually are, and as such, they may remain unchallenged and unaddressed throughout the student’s education, thereby weakening the foundation of his/her further learning.
One of the primary responsibilities of us as educators, it would seem, is therefore to use effective formative assessment to help identify misconceptions in order to be able to identify where misconceptions exist. For example, rather than being satisfied with basic check-in or revision questions, we need to ask higher level questions that require students to explain their thinking and make connections, as well as find additional tasks to help challenge a student’s conceptions. Audrey Sewell explained that even a visual demonstration may not be enough to convince a student to adapt their conception. The most effective approach may be to provide students with multiple ways of approaching a concept so as to hopefully be able to engage each student through at least one method. Connecting students with field experts through a technology tool such as Skype may be one way to help students be metacognitive about their understandings, as it is a novel experience. Additional tools may include using apps such as Explain Everything to have students be able to visually and orally explain their understandings, similar to the marker and paper method employed in the Private Universe video, or having students conduct research to approach a topic using the dialectical method, which requires them to justify both sides of an argument. By finding evidence that may be contradictory to their initial understandings, students may be motivated to learn more for clarification.
One of my goals that I am going to take away from this week is to make a conscious effort to ensure that I am consistently requiring my senior math students to explain and justify their strategies and procedures to ensure that they are aligned with accurate understandings. As they work through their courses at their own pace using various resources, there are many opportunities for misconceptions to be added and perhaps not enough opportunities to challenge their thinking. This is something I am going to work to change.
Sewell, A. (2002). Constructivism and student misconceptions: Why every teacher needs to know about them.Australian Science Teachers’ Journal,48(4), 24-28. Retrieved January 9, 2017.