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Difficulties and misconceptions in teaching cell respiration

Misconceptions can arise in many areas of biology so it is important to consider, how to identify them
ALEX JENKIN: Misconceptions can arise in many areas of biology, so it’s important to consider what misconceptions might come up, how to identify them and how to help students work through them. Using a wider range of examples and contexts can help students to overcome misconceptions, and it’s worth considering how you could use plant examples instead of animal ones. This week, we’ll look at misconceptions surrounding respiration, particularly addressing the common misconception that plants only photosynthesis and only animals respire. Using plants to explore respiration may seem counterintuitive, but plants are organisms that are actively respiring all the time, and there are fewer ethical considerations than when working with animals.
We will look at resources that you can use with your students to investigate respiration in plants and explore its importance as a process that’s happening in all living organisms. We will also discuss how you can use hinge point questions to assess misconceptions and how teachers go about assessing whether students have overcome their misconceptions.
This week we are looking at misconceptions in biology, using the misconceptions that your students may have about respiration in plants as an example.
Throughout the week, you will:
  • develop your subject knowledge of respiration and gas exchange in plants
  • consider ways in which you can find out what your student’s misconceptions are and how you can assess if they have overcome them.
  • explore practical work which develops your students’ understanding of key concepts and therefore helps them to overcome their misconceptions about respiration in plants.
  • consider where else you could use plant examples to address misconceptions


To start off, how do you currently teach respiration? Include:
  • A brief description of your approach.
  • Any resources and practical work you use.
  • Why you use this approach.
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