It is easy to assume that children see the world the same way as we do as adults.
However, research has shown that there are some very common misconceptions about science that a lot of children have.
A good teacher and tutor, knows these common misconceptions and can ask questions to tease these out of students to ensure correct learning takes place.
These misconceptions aren’t down to intelligence, in fact sometimes the opposite as they are down to children actually thinking about the world around them and what they expect to happen.
Well-designed diagnostic questions that experienced tutors use aim to elicit evidence about student learning and so result in more successful results. This is what makes a good tutor, the experience telling them what misconceptions are likely, what questions to ask to gain evidence of these and then the ability to teach and plan activities to counteract these misconceptions. You can’t do this using bought in resources!
Teachers were surveyed as part of a research project and asked to rank how difficult their children found certain concepts. These were the top ranking in terms of numbers of children who had an issue with the concept:
- Babies grow into adult
- Ice is frozen water
- There are many sources of sound
- Plants need light and water
- Some materials can be changed in shape (children often just think material is cloth or fabric)
- New plants are made from seeds (they often think a baby plant is inside the seed)
- Sounds are heard when they enter the ear
- Darkness is the absence of light (they think darkness can be turned on and off)
- Electrical devices don’t work if there is a break in the circuit (they often get confused by fridges always being cold)
- Growth is gradual and continuous (they often think you just grow on your birthday)
- Worms are animals (they assume animal means four legged and furry)
How to deal with misconceptions
FIRST YOU HAVE TO KNOW A MISCONCEPTION IS THERE!!
I’ll repeat it as it is vital….you cannot assume anything with children or students of any age. Never assume a misconception is present or not. You have to assess. Each child is unique and sees the world in a different way, they have had different experiences and so arrive with different ideas.
Any good teacher or tutor will start a new topic or session with assessment. We often think assessment is just sitting an exam at the end of a topic but we need to assess for learning to take place too. We cannot possibly teach anything without knowing what a student knows or not.
Parents looking for a tutor
If a tutor just arrives at your house with a ready made lesson plan without ever meeting or speaking to you and your child…..please consider finding a new tutor!
It is impossible to teach or support students in any subject without assessing them first.
We are currently offering free assessment and goal setting sessions for students in Wirral and beyond. For me, this is the most important part of beginning tutoring as I will never arrive with a pre-built bought in lesson plan, I need to know your child, their strengths and weaknesses, what ideas they already have about the subject.
Karen Pine , David Messer & Kate St. John (2001) Children’s Misconceptions in Primary Science: A Survey of teachers’ views, Research in Science & Technological Education, 19:1, 79-96, DOI: 10.1080/02635140120046240
This website is great for looking at the research into misconceptions and how common they are – be warned it is addictive looking them all up!