Peering into students' "private universe"

Photo uploaded to’s Creative Commons by marcusrg

In the award-winning documentary A Private Universe, education researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics sought to answer this question: Why don’t even the brightest students truly grasp basic science concepts? Teachers and teacher educators alike continue to search for ways to overcome students’ science misconceptions and to determine how they develop in the first place.
Get some insight on students’ “Private Universe” in Philadelphia. You’ll find sessions addressing misconceptions at all grade levels, in a range of science fields. Use the session browser with the keyword misconception to find them. Here’s a sample:

  • Centering Around the Science Standards, Grades K–2 (March 18). Find out how hands-on centers incorporate the learning cycle to address common misconceptions.
  • Everyone Knows That Heavier Things Fall First (March 19). Use misconceptions to teach intermediate-level physical science? You can do it with these classroom demonstrations and activities.
  • Using Diagnostic Assessment to Address Preservice Teachers’ Science Misconceptions (March 20). It’s never too late to identify these deep-seated incorrect beliefs. Learn how to create inquiry-based lessons to improve scientific understanding.

And picking up where A Private Universe left off, Neil Comins—astrophysicist, astronomer, and professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Maine—has identified nearly 2,000 commonly held misconceptions about astronomy and physics and has figured out “their origins, why we develop them, how to avoid them in the future, and how to get rid of old ones (which is the hard part).” Hear how he conquers them on March 20 at the Shell Science Seminar.

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About Debra Shapiro

Associate Editor of member newspaper, NSTA Reports ( Editor of Freebies for Science Teachers ( and NSTA Calendar ( pages. Follow me on Twitter: @Debra_NSTA
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