Tackling Misconceptions and Personal Beliefs

How do you overcome misconceptions that many students will have coming into your classrooms? What is the best way to handle and approach situations when personal beliefs are involved?
— M., Arkansas


Misconceptions abound in almost every topic we could study in science! To help anticipate some common misconceptions search NSTA’s The Learning Center and other sources.

An excellent method to uncover misconceptions is to poll your students’ prior knowledge using a Know-Want to Know-Learned (KWL) activity. Use misconceptions and half-truths as springboards to teach the nature of science. Investigations that give empirical evidence are probably the most powerful way to combat misconceptions. Some misconceptions are difficult to prove in class so teach students how to differentiate between reputable and poor sources of information and data.

With respect to faith:
Your job is to teach science, not to produce a secular society. NSTA’s position statement on Teaching Science in the Context of Societal and Personal Issues (https://www.nsta.org/about/positions/societalpersonalissues.aspx) states that science instruction should:

  • approach decisions based on scientific evidence in an open unbiased way, while acknowledging that different perspectives, views, beliefs, and other ways of knowing exist;
  • prepare students to become future citizens who understand science and engineering and are willing to engage in making responsible and informed decisions.

It’s okay to tell your students that you will teach science and how science works in your classroom. I don’t believe that faith should have any footing in a science class much the same way that we don’t teach German in French language classes.

Hope this helps!

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