Elementary Teachers’ Understanding of Students’ Science Misconceptions: Implications for Practice and Teacher Education

Abstract

This study sought to determine what elementary teachers know about student science misconceptions and how teachers address student misconceptions in instruction. The sample included 30 teachers from California with at least 1-year of experience teaching grades 3, 4, and 5. A semistructured interview was used. The interview transcripts were transcribed and coded under the following categories: definition of misconceptions, sources of misconceptions, development of misconceptions, and teaching strategies for addressing misconceptions. The results suggest that, although most of the teachers are aware of misconceptions, they do not understand how they develop or fully appreciate their impact on their instruction.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Ausubel, D. (1968). Educational psychology: A cognitive view. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bar, V. (1989). Children’s views about the water cycle. Science Education, 73, 481–500.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bar, V., & Travis, A. S. (1991). Children’s views concerning phase changes. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 28, 363–382.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bar, V., Zinn, B., Goldmuntz, R., & Sneider, C. (1994). Children’s concepts about weight and free fall. Science Education, 78, 149–169.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Benson, D. L., Wittrock, M. C., & Baur, M. E. (1993). Students’ preconceptions of the nature of gases. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30, 587–597.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Chi, M. T. H., Slotta, J. D., & de Leeuw, N. (1994). From things to process: A theory of conceptual change for learning science concepts. Learning and Instruction, 4, 27–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Eryilmaz, A. (2002). Effects of conceptual assignments and conceptual change discussions on students’ misconceptions and achievement regarding force and motion. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39, 1001–1015.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Gabel, D. L., Stockton, J. D., Monaghan, D. L., & MaKinster, J. G. (2001). Changing children’s conceptions of burning. School Science and Mathematics, 101, 439–451.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Guzzetti, B. (2000). Learning counter-intuitive science concepts: What have we learned from over a decade of research? Reading & Writing Quarterly, 16, 89–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Halim, L., & Meerah, S. M. (2002). Science trainee teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge and its influence on physics teaching. Research in Science & Technological Education, 20, 215–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Hesse, J., & Anderson, C. (1992). Students’ conceptions of chemical change. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29, 277–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hewson, M., & Hewson, P. W. (2003). Effect of instruction using students’ prior knowledge and conceptual change strategies on science learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40, S86–S98.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Mason, J. (1996). Qualitative researching. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Meyer, H. (2004). Novice and expert teachers’ conceptions of learners’ prior knowledge. Science Education, 88, 970–983.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Novak, J. D. (2002). Meaningful learning: The essential factor for conceptual change in limited or inappropriate propositional hierarchies leading to empowerment of learners. Science Education, 86, 584–571.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Nussbaum, J. (1979). Children’s conceptions of the earth as a cosmic body: A cross age study. Science Education, 63, 83–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Osborne, R. J., & Cosgrove, M. M. (1983). Children’s conception of the changes in the state of water. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 20, 825–838.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Pine, K., Messer, D., & St. John, K. (2001). Children’s misconceptions in primary science: A survey of teachers’ views. Research in Science and Technological Education, 19, 79–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Posner, G. J., Strike, K. A., Hewson, P. W., & Gertzog, W. A. (1982). Accommodation of a scientific conception: Towards a theory of conceptual change. Science Education, 66, 211–277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Ross, K. E., & Shuell, T. J. (1993). Children’s beliefs about earthquakes. Science Education, 77, 191–205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Schmidt, H. (1997). Students’ misconceptions: Looking for a pattern. Science Education, 81, 123–135.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Sequeira, M., & Leite, L. (1991). Alternative conceptions and history of science in physics teacher education. Science Education, 75, 45–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Smith, J., diSessa, A., & Roschelle, J. (1993). Misconceptions reconceived: A constructivist analysis of knowledge in transition. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3, 115–163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Sneider, C., & Ohadi, M. (1998). Unraveling students’ misconceptions about the Earth’s shape and gravity. Science Education, 82, 265–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Southerland, S., Abrams, E., Cummins, C., & Anzelmo, J. (2001). Understanding students’ explanations of biological phenomena: Conceptual frameworks or p-prims? Science Education, 85, 328–348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Stavy, R., & Stachel, D. (1985). Children’s conceptions of change in the state of matter: From “solid” and “liquid”. Archives de Psychologie, 53, 331–344.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Tao, P., & Gunstone, R. (1999). The process of conceptual change in force and motion during computer-supported physics instruction. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36, 859–882.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Trend, R. D. (2001). Deep time framework: A preliminary study. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38, 191–221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Trowbridge, J. E., & Mintzes, J. J. (1988). Alternative conceptions in animal classification: A cross age study. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 25, 547–571.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Tsai, C. (2003). Using a conflict map and an instructional tool to change student alternative conceptions in simple series electric-circuits. International Journal of Science Education, 25, 307–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Windschitl, M. (2002). Framing constructivism in practice as the negotiation of dilemmas: An analysis of the conceptual, pedagogical, cultural, and political challenges facing teachers. Review of Educational Research, 72, 131–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Susan Gomez-Zwiep.

About this article

Cite this article

Gomez-Zwiep, S. Elementary Teachers’ Understanding of Students’ Science Misconceptions: Implications for Practice and Teacher Education. J Sci Teacher Educ 19, 437–454 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-008-9102-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Inservice teacher education
  • Science education
  • Concept formation
  • Teaching methods
  • Preservice teacher education
  • Misconceptions