Accommodations and Misconceptions

In the Video with Heather we saw that there are misconceptions that block learning. As teachers we often assume that students have the basic ideas or are a blank vessel waiting to be filled. In Heather’s case, even after direct instruction to correct her misunderstanding of direct and indirect light paths she still holds on to her previous understanding. Posner et al. (1982) identify these misunderstandings as conceptual ecology. As we challenge students’ beliefs, like Heather was by her teacher, we are trying to create the conditions to allow for an accommodation. In the case of Heather, direct instruction allowed for her to create an accommodation and better explain the causes of the seasons and moon phases but she was not able to grow her understanding of light paths. Gomez-Zwiep (2008) further our understanding of how Heather could hold onto her beliefs as students may hold onto their misconceptions if they are “extensions of effective knowledge that function productively within a specific context.”

All three articles start with the need for the teacher to first acknowledge that students come with their own preconceived knowledge structures and are not empty vessels waiting to be filled. Posner et al. (1982) identify these teaching strategies to deal with misconceptions or use to create an environment that supports the developments of accommodations.
1) Provide lessons that create cognitive conflict in the students.
2) Create lessons that allow for significant amounts of time to assess students and observe for areas where they are resisting accommodations.
3) Develop strategies with teachers that allow them to identify errors that affect accommodations.
4) Present content in multiple modes.
5) Develop many evaluation techniques to track errors in learning.
These points tie into the research by Gomez-Zwiep (2008) and raises the question on what supports are needed allow the elementary generalist to have a strong understanding of all topics that they are able to create the above listed ideals. Confey (1990) also identifies the need for sufficient time to allow for exploration and development of ideas. The integration of technology into today’s classroom has the ability to help support different modalities of learning, and allow for time for the teacher to work with students who require the supports. However technology is only one aspect, addressing effective Pro. D and teacher training as “[t]he results of the study and of previous research (Halim and Meerah 2002; Meyer 2004) suggest that teachers are not prepared to confront science misconceptions when they arise in their classrooms, even if the teachers recognize that such misconceptions exist.” (Gomez-Zweip, 2008, P. 452).

Confrey, J. (1990). A review of the research on student conceptions in mathematics, science, and programming. Review of research in education, 16, 3-56.
Gomez-Zwiep, S. (2008). Elementary teachers’ understanding of students’ science misconceptions: Implications for practice and teacher education. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 19(5), 437-454. doi:10.1007/s10972-008-9102-y
Posner, G. J., Strike, K. A., Hewson, P. W. and Gertzog, W. A. (1982). Accommodation of a scientific conception: Toward a theory of conceptual change. Sci. Ed., 66: 211–227. doi: 10.1002/sce.373066020
Schneps, Matthew. A Private Universe: Misconceptions That Block Learning. Massachusetts, USA: Annenberg Media, 1989. video.

One comment

  1. Hello Sarrah,

    Posner’s teaching strategies to deal with misconceptions, that you reference in your post, hold a lot promise, especially the ones that talk about creating cognitive conflict in the students and presenting content in multiple modes.

    However, these strategies are impractical for two reasons: teachers would have to spend quite a bit of time to elicit and examine students’ scientific misconceptions and, in turn, teachers would have to come up with suitable strategies for a large set of misconceptions.

    Modern technologies like Virtual and Augmented Reality can gamify learning and allow students to engage actively with the content through experimentation, reflection, and peer collaboration. All of that can help students construct knowledge and confront their scientific misconceptions in the process.

    The advantage of leveraging modern technologies is that we can scale the learning process almost infinitely and allow for students to advance at their own pace while constructing and acquiring knowledge. In addition, virtual scenarios can be designed in a way that allows for accommodation and cognitive conflict for a large set of scientific misconceptions.


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