Misconceptions are a part of learning.
Kids explore and learn quickly, so it’s no surprise that sometimes they process new information into incorrect schemas. Some misconceptions even carry all the way to adulthood.
Try this quiz to see for yourself which misconceptions you may still have:
Answer true or false for each question:
- Batteries contain electricity.
- Electrical charge flows at very high speeds.
- Batteries are rechargeable.
- Thick wires have lower resistance in a circuit because the charges have more space.
- Voltage is what you need to pay attention to in order to avoid getting shocked.
Reveal Answers Here
- FALSE -- Batteries contain energy, not electricity.
- FALSE -- Electrons are already in place when you flip a switch. They gain energy and wiggle or move around much more slowly than you might think.
- FALSE -- Technically batteries get re-energized, not recharged. They don’t contain charges, the charges are already in the circuit.
- TRUE -- As a wire gets thicker, the cross sectional area increases and so the resistance decreases. Resistance = resistivity x length/(cross-sectional area)
- TRUE -- Electric shocks from static electricity are very high voltage but are also very high current (the two are not independent of one another and always obey Ohm's law). A person is not injured from them because the current only runs for a very brief period of time so only a very small amount of energy is transferred to the person.
If you discovered you had more misconceptions than you thought, here’s a great article to read up on electricity.
So how do they happen?
Sometimes students get the big picture, but incorrectly guesses how a new detail fits in. Students may initially mishear or misunderstand new information. Or unfortunately, students may simply have been taught the wrong thing to begin with.
How can teachers change misconceptions?
Use formative assessments, questioning, and prediction before teaching a new topic to ensure you’ll be able to address misconceptions that may arise. The APA has a great resource to walk teachers through discovering students’ thoughts. Bill Beaty has a wealth of information on misconceptions about science.
Misconceptions usually happen when students are processing new information and their ideas about that information don’t get challenged later. That’s why it’s important to review and practice previously learned information. We do this with our students in math and reading all the time, but sometimes we forget to recall and make connections in science. Here are some tips from experts about avoiding misconceptions:
- STEM curriculum should be as consistent as possible and have a logical order. If you have to introduce new topics within the sequence, make sure to spend time on defining that topic within and without of the context.
- Discuss similarities and differences between new vocabulary words and other terms they already know. Kids know that their teachers often tell them they have a lot of energy, but only knowing the word in that context can make it confusing when we talk about objects at rest having energy.
- Follow STEM related new in your class to start a discussion about how ideas change in science. Model and talk about how scientists think. Make sure that students understand that it’s not only ok to get the wrong idea, but it’s expected that they routinely challenge their own thinking.
Comment or share your misconception stories with us below! For more information on this topic, check out the resources below.