Students can easily become enmeshed in their “preconceived notions” about science, and unfortunately, these ideas often come from those of us most invested in preventing them. At the university level, I have encountered quite a few students well into their twenties who cling to inaccurate ideas. These ideas start when students are young and if they are not dealt with, persist throughout their educational experience.
Some of my favorite misconceptions in science:
- Seasons are caused by the variation in the distance between the sun and Earth. When Earth is closer, we experience summer, and when it is further away, we experience winter.
- Volcanoes erupt as the result of a chemical reaction within the earth.
- Polar bears and penguins live in the same places.
- The earth is sitting on something.
- Space has an “up” and “down”.
- Acquired characteristics can be inherited.
- Evolution is purposeful.
- Cladograms = phylogenetic trees.
More about misconceptions later, but in the meantime, what misconceptions have you encountered in teaching your students? Post them in the comments!