Tackling Tall Tales

I am looking for some opinions how handle situations where there are misconceptions on the material. I was wondering how to know the amount of time that is needed to clear up a misconception and when to move on to other material?
— R., New Jersey

My answer is, “It depends!”

As you progress in your career you will likely amass a library of common and not-so-common misconceptions. My biggest advice is to always address them or they may spread among your students. There are many ways to handle misconceptions as you teach science. I caution against scoffing or ridiculing some outlandish claims. It might be better to say, “I haven’t heard of that. Shall we find out more?”

Addressing misconceptions can and should become an integral part of teaching and offers excellent learning opportunities! One way is to pre-empt them by discussing the more common ones in your general instruction. A better way is to gauge your class’s prior knowledge when you introduce a topic or ask them to supply you with three questions on an exit slip. In your follow-up discussions you can directly address common misconceptions that arise or turn them back to the students as small research activities.

The most powerful way to handle misconceptions, particularly egregious ones, is to build entire lessons as “Fact or Fiction” or in the Mythbusters style. Have the students research, explain, demonstrate, and set the record straight for themselves. Students also learn about the nature of science and how we handle discrepancies in our knowledge.

Hope this helps!

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

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