Misconceptions are sneaky. They lurk just under the surface, and many times, we are
unaware that they exist. However, when we discover them, it can be unsettling and downright
preposterous to even entertain the idea that what we have believed to be true is not. It can take
a lot of convincing, mental acrobatics, and time to change incorrect ideas. Think about all of the
students who visit your classroom every day. Each one has misconceptions; we all do. Pondering
how t
o uncover those misconceptions and then what to do with incorrect information can feel
overwhelming. Luckily, you have come across this resource. It will guide you through detecting,
confronting, and replacing some of the commonly held misconceptions we encounter in science
To begin, let’s define the term misconception. What is a misconception? Take a minute and
reflect on how you
define it.
As defined by Merriam-Webster, a misconception is “a wrong or inaccurate idea or conception”
(2022). To expand on that, misconceptions are something we learn incorrectly due to faulty
thinking or understanding. Some misconceptions are more ingrained and complex than others.
Let’s take a few min
utes to define each type of misconception.
Vernacular Misconceptions: This type of misconception is perhaps the least time-consuming to correct. Vernacular misconceptions occur when we use scientific words in a conversational manner. For example, when teachers say, “Rotate to the next station, students know t
hat means they need to move to another location. However, in science, rotate means to spin in place on an axis. Students can rotate all day and never make it to the next station. Instead of conversationally saying, “Rotate to the next station,” replace rotate with move, advance, or go. Being aware of how w
e use words can make a difference for students, especially our Emergent Bilingual Students/English Learners who must simultaneously learn English and the language of science.
Factual Misconceptions: This type of misconception usually takes hold at an early age and is never corrected. Many of these misconceptions originate as superstitions and other sayings that get passed down from one generation to the next and become accepted as factual. The most commonly known example of this misconception is that lightning never strikes twice in the same location. Who wants to test that out? No? Always remember to fact-check and do your research. Encourage your students to do the same.
Preconceived Notions: This type of misconception occurs based on our everyday encounters and experiences. For example, why do some bruises have darker pinpointed spots in them? Depending on where the bruise is located and the extent of a person’s knowledge of how t
he body works, it might be plausible to think that those darker spots are due to damaged hair follicles. When researched though, one would find those darker
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