Misconceptions in Science
Updated: Dec 1, 2019
Children habitually construct their own mental models to make sense of the world around them. When these constructions conflict with acceptable scientific ideas, they form the misconceptions – a barrier to successful learning in Science. It is important to identify a child’s misconception as early as when he is exposed to daily Science. Otherwise, the child would find misconceptions to be resistance to modification, partly due to the repetitive use of these constructions to explain his daily life occurrences.
Clarification at the initial stage is therefore crucial to enhance the effectiveness of eradicating these erroneous mental models. A good science educationist offers content knowledge and helpful examples via reasoning processes that lead to conceptual generalizations. How would educators then, bust the misconceptions that were formed prior to a child’s formal Science education?
Misconceptions need first to be identified before they can be corrected.
Table 1 lists some common errors experienced by students.
Without proper understanding of the concepts, students may also fail to apply to the correct context. To recognise students’ misconceptions at school, educators could integrate active discussions in a fun and engaging manner, so that the students could feel at ease and respond spontaneously, which often linked to what they actually believe. Other approaches include the after-class evaluation via True/False questions to check their understanding, or to increase the frequency of feedback sessions to unveil the mistaken beliefs.
Young learner tends to accept a “new” concept when he is not satisfied with his “old” one, and that the replacement idea is able to assist him to solve a current problem. Once accepted, educators and parents should include activities that support the building of this replacement concept, such as exposing the child with more problems that embed with the right concepts in the solutions.
Listed below are some other approaches that could be adopted;
(1) Construct concept maps or Venn diagrams to visualize a group of concepts and their interrelationships
(2) Conduct demonstrations or hands-on activities to address to the misconceptions
(3) Design and establish process skill questions that are not resolvable with their mistaken theories
(4) Assess and reassess the validity of students’ concepts
Parents could facilitate the corrective process by addressing to the child’s misconceptions instantly when discovered. Classroom activities need to clearly refute misconceptions so that students can successfully assimilate the accurate scientific facts. Notably, a proper reassessment tool must also be established to ensure that the efforts of clarification have not gone down to waste.