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Misconceptions identified from research

In the previous step you shared ideas from your personal experiences of teaching, the common misconceptions and areas of difficulty you have encountered with your students. Now, you’ll take a look at some outputs from research that has been conducted to find out what areas students have found difficult.

We have selected examples from science. If you teach another subject, you can find evidence-based research about misconceptions in your subject from colleagues, subject associations, assessment bodies and educational research organisations.

Misconceptions in science

AAAS has a website designed to support teaching to address misconceptions in science. These instructions will guide you through the website.

  1. Go to the AAAS Science Assessment site for assessment topics.
  2. Click on a topic. You will see a number of sub-topics.
  3. Click on a subtopic.
  4. Click on the Misconceptions tab to view a list of common student misconceptions.

You can also look at questions that are assessing knowledge, and the misconceptions they aim to identify.

  1. After clicking on a subtopic, go to the Items & Student Performance tab.
  2. Click on the ID Number for knowledge being assessed.
  3. Beneath the question you will see the correct answer and misconceptions for wrong answers.

Primary science

Pine, Messer and St. John (2001) surveyed 122 teachers of primary science and identified 130 misconceptions. Whilst this paper refers to the old National Curriculum for England, many of the topics are included in the current curriculum in the UK and other countries.

The misconceptions are explained in this article. The misconceptions are described in pages 87-89. You might also like to read pages 91-93 which discuss their findings.


Unpicking the misconception

Decide on the misconception that you are going to read about and then:

  • Write three sentences summarising for a colleague what you think the key points are.
  • Write two ways you can use the ideas you have encountered to develop your planning for learning.
  • Write one question you may have having read the research.

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This article is from the free online course:

Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment

National STEM Learning Centre