Do You Know What You Do Not Know?

The recent report by the Pew Research Center was titled “A Look at What the Public Knows and Does Not Know About Science” and according to their website found “….. that most Americans can answer basic questions about several scientific terms and concepts, such as the layers of the Earth and the elements needed to make nuclear energy. But other science-related terms and applications, such as what property of a sound wave determines loudness and the effect of higher altitudes on cooking time, are not as well understood.

There is no doubt that American’s or at least American students have been compared to international counterparts on a variety of different assessments throughout the ages. However, this particular study is a bit different in that it takes twelve questions – one per science topic and utilizes it to measure the public’s knowledge about science in general.

As noted in this month’s edition of the Leaders Letter, popular news media outlets picked up this story as well and Live Science summarized the findings in a short and to the point story. A counter point to this study appeared in Science News where it states that the study was “heavy on trivia and light on concepts” and is worth reading for a balanced view on this now trending on social media report on American’s understanding of science.

So, a better question is, do you know what you do not know? Or better yet…. do you know what your students do not know or have misconceptions about?

There are a variety of resources that help teachers tackle common (or not so common) misconceptions in science and some of these include:

Some groups even help you develop your own assessment to test student’s misconceptions:

As an educator or those who work with professional development opportunities, it may be worthwhile to actually test your own conceptual knowledge or build that into an actual PD event utilizing the professional development indexer which is part of the NSTA Learning Center. The Professional Development Indexer helps you diagnose your needs in specific science content areas and provide suggestions of NSTA e-PD resources and opportunities you may want to consider as you plan your professional development (PD). The Indexer does not assign a grade or present a score to the questions you answer, but saves a list of recommended resources for later review.

So how do you address what you don’t know or work to address what student misconceptions are?




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