514 – Science Blog #4: Misconceptions

As we continue with our inquiry experiments in 514, I keep thinking back to the Bubble Activity with the 2nd grade students at Haw River Elementary.  I think I would have been so much more prepared had I known more about the students themselves and their misconceptions about science, water, and bubbles.  I know the students thought that the objects would float better in the bubble solution than in the regular water, and they were surprised to see that wasn’t the case.  The students didn’t seem to have any misconceptions about surface tension because they really didn’t know what it is to begin with.  When we spoke with them about the “skin” of the water, they seemed to understand a little bit better, but they were still attributing the floating or sinking to the object’s weight and whether it was buoyant or not. 

In my student teaching placement, I haven’t been able to witness very much in terms of science inquiry experiments because they typically occur on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  I did see some of the results from an ongoing experiment about ice and states of matter.  The students have been recording their data on a big sheet of chart paper and I could see how their estimates were off at first, but they were realizing the trends in how fast the ice melts and how the volume remains constant.  It would have been interesting for me to have been able to ask students questions prior to the experiment so that I could assess their understanding before and after the experiment.  But I am sure my CT has been doing these assessments as well.  Hopefully, I will be able to witness more experiments firsthand, especially before I take over teaching myself.

Students’ misconceptions can definitely help OR hinder a science experiment.  Sometimes students are so convinced that they are right, it takes a lot longer for them to realize that what they believed to be truth is actually a misconception.  But when students do realize their misconception, it tends to stick with them longer, leaving a lasting impression. 

In my own classroom, I will gage my students’ conceptual understandings by asking questions before, during, and after inquiry experiments.  If I have my students journal as well, they will be able to see firsthand how their understanding changed over the course of the experiment.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “514 – Science Blog #4: Misconceptions

  1. aklilly

    Nice post! I think it is important that you noted that “sometimes students are so convinced that they are right,that it takes a lot longer for them to realize that what they believed to be truth is actually a misconception”. I think as teachers we must be aware of these misconceptions, but be wary of taking on a correctionist approach, but provide numerous inquiry opportunities for them to investigate and come to conclusions on their own. I like the idea of having them keep science journals!

  2. sydneypender

    Katie, I had the same experience with you regarding Haw River. My students weren’t really able to give reasons for the predictions they made about the bubble experiments. They seemed like each time they were just guessing an answer, and even when I probed them to answer “why?” they thought this way, they would just respond that they didn’t know. I think this comes from a lack of science inquiry learning in their past as students. Since Haw River is a Title I school, they are federally funded to spend lots of time on Reading and Math. We both know that this causes Science to sometimes get pushed to once a week or for a few minutes each day. With such little time for learning science, there is no way the students are going to be ready for an inquiry activity like this one. I am excited about going back to Haw River to do the parachute experiment, because I think we know more about the student population there in general, which will help us to better plan for their specific needs.

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