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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry. Join the course to learn more.

Misconceptions in primary chemistry

In the STEM Learning online course Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment identifying and planning for misconceptions is addressed as a key feature of effective teaching.

The course leader, Professor Chris Harrison, discusses how research has shown that children will invent rules to explain the patterns they see around them. At times this can be useful, however, sometimes these rules can lead to incorrect ideas and assumptions.

Malcolm Swan (2001) writes how “misconception is not wrong thinking but it is a concept in embryo or a local generalisation that the [student] has made. It may in fact be a natural stage of development.”

This can be seen in science lessons where children may have developed misconceptions to make sense of the world around them. It is therefore essential that we are armed with a number of teaching strategies which enable us to identify, avoid and remedy misconceptions in the children we teach.


Can you think of any misconceptions that children may have about materials and their properties? Why do you think the children may have this misconception?

If you have not experienced any about this topic, or cannot think of one, feel free to consider any other misconceptions children may have which may need addressing in the rest of the primary science curriculum.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre