Correcting Science

What we call misconceptions

Science is cool. It allows us to step back and reason why things are the way they are.  Most importantly it fuels us to keep questioning why. Asking why is an important aspect of learning, and is a huge part of the way classrooms run, on average a teacher will ask 300-400 questions just in a day (Vogler 2008)! However, what happens when a student does not have the correct answer to a question? Are they deemed wrong? Is it a misconception that we must fix?

In the article, “ What We Call Misconceptions May be Necessary Stepping Stones Towards Making Sense of The World” the authors, Campbell, Schwarz and Windschitl, take what we think is right about teaching science and spin it on it’s head. Today, pedagogy is circled around providing students with the ‘right’ information and correcting the child when they have the ‘wrong’ idea. This idea of focusing on what is right and what is wrong is arguably what makes some kids frustrated about learning science. However, this article takes on the perspective of overcoming right and wrong and working with a student instead of against them. “We simply mean working on and with ideas—both students’ ideas (including experiences, language, and ways of knowing) and authoritative ideas in texts and other materials—in ways that help generate meaningful connections”(Campbell, Schwarz, and Windschitl 2016). This article articulates a teacher’s incredibly valid  role as an educator and how, as a teacher, it is so important to open up and initiate questions that interactively get a student to consider why. It is in asking why that we develop meaning and purpose in this world.

Having grown up with my own ideas being corrected, I believe that taking the initiative to adapt to students and their learning behaviors will only improve our knowledge as a whole. Education is a valuable  opportunity and it should not be a one way street. In other words students should not feel like the teacher holds all the answers and the teacher should not feel obligated to impose everything she/he knows to be true. Instead it should be a hand and hand approach. Think about it. How well do you truly learn when someone is telling you exactly what to do and how to do it? It’s intimidating and overwhelming to think about. I don’t like it and I’m sure you don’t either. Some things we just have to learn by doing ourselves, and in the case of science that is exactly what is needed.

See a recent ChemEd X PICK highlighting "What We Call Misconceptions May be Necessary Stepping Stones Towards Making Sense of the World".

Todd Campbell, Christina Schwarz, and Mark Windschitl(2016). What We Call Misconceptions May Be Important Stepping Stones Toward Making Sense of the World. National Science Teacher Association.

Vogler, E. Kenneth(2008). Asking Good Questions. Educational Leadership, 65. Retrieved from