In theory, the idea that we do not ‘assume’ until we have all required information appears a relatively straight-forward concept; however, as the video and articles this week have shown, in reality this concept is far from straight-forward. What struck me most in this week’s materials was the point that if students do not share their misconceptions with us, we may never realize they have misconceptions, and as was clearly shown in “A Private Universe” (1987), students may go through their entire educational careers without realizing, understanding, or correcting the misconceptions they have held since childhood. As Heather’s teacher, Marlene LaBossiere, points out, “You just assume that they know certain things…I just assumed that they had the basic ideas, and they don’t” (“A Private Universe”, 1987, time stamp: 8:55). Driver, Guesne and Tiberghien (1985) draw attention to the fact that children approach science with ideas and interpretations despite not having received instruction. Similarly, Henriques (2000) states that “…students enter the classroom with their own understandings of the world…often at odds with the scientifically accepted view of the world” (p. 1). In addition to these points, once we receive instruction, we all assimilate information differently depending on our prior knowledge and experiences (Driver, Guesne, & Tiberghien, 1985).
Many difficulties related to misconceptions arise for educators, among them: how do we identify students’ misconceptions (especially when each child has their own “private” misconceptions) and where have students’ misconceptions originated from? Misconceptions can originate from textbooks, classroom experiences, and personal experiences (A Private Universe, 1987), as well as physical activities, communications with others, and through media sources (Driver, Guesne, & Tiberghien, 1985, p. 2). In addition to these, in her paper, “Children’s misconceptions about weather: A review of the literature” Laura Henriques (2000) discusses the fact that “students tend to develop their own models to explain phase changes” (p.4) which coincides with Heather’s explanation strategies in “A Private Universe” (1987) as she attempted to explain her thinking through drawings and manipulatives.
The misconception I examined more closed was related to phase changes of water and the variety of misconceptions students have around changes in state. For example, rather than understanding how condensation is formed on a container, children may believe the water has “seeped through” or “sweated through” the container; that “coldness comes through the container and produces water”; or that “condensation is when air turns into a liquid” (Henriques, 2000, p.5). Henriques suggests that these misconceptions may be based in the following: “language used is confusing – we talk about glasses “sweating” and humans sweat liquids from the inside. It is difficult for students to think about invisible water in the air which condenses onto a surface” (p. 5-6).
Today, there are a variety of sources available to help educators dispel misconceptions about topics in science. Digital technology allows for more interactive, engaging and motivating learning experiences in today’s classrooms. Tools such as interactive websites or SMART technologies (i.e., SMARTboards, tablets, iPads, etc.) have the potential to add to interactive experiences for students, potentially helping to correct misconceptions through this interactive approach. I remember being in a SET-BC sponsored workshop about eight years ago where we were shown a virtual lab on how to dissect a frog. I found the virtual lab so interesting, and the experience made enough of an impact on me that I remember it above anything else we were shown that day. I do not recall the exact site, but I did check online and found that McGraw Hill Higher Education does have a Virtual Lab site that has a “Virtual Frog Dissection” just to show an example (http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/genbio/virtual_labs/BL_16/BL_16.html). In today’s classrooms, in addition to more traditional printed materials, we are privileged to have access to videos, interactive games, simulations and virtual labs which have the potential to increase student understanding on a more basic level, as well as foster a deeper understanding for students who are willing to accept the challenge.
*On a side note, I found Laura Henriques’s paper provided a number of interesting misconceptions students had regarding various aspects of science/earth science (if you are interested in viewing it, here is the link: http://web.csulb.edu/~lhenriqu/NARST2000.htm).
Driver, R., Guesne, E., & Tiberghien, A. (1985). Children’s ideas and the learning of science. Children’s Ideas in Science (pp. 1-9). Milton Keynes [Buckinghamshire]; Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Producer). (1987). A Private Universe [online video]. Retrieved 6 January, 2017, from: http://learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=9
Henriques, L. (2000, April). Children’s misconceptions about weather: A review of the literature. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, LA. Retrieved 7 January, 2017, from: http://web.csulb.edu/~lhenriqu/NARST2000.htm