Oh how little difference there is between the bad habits of a student and those of a teacher sometimes! For an upcoming AAAS conference on science education this week I am finally getting around to reading the research papers sent out at the begining of the month.
In this reading, I came across a reference to an old video produced in ’86 about misperceptions related to extremely basic planetary motion type stuff in both high school students, Harvard University graduates AND professors. The point of the video is that students usually do NOT come into a class as blank slates, but instead have ideas about how things might work. They then (hopefully) build more knowledge on top of those ideas. If the ideas they come in with are off kilter, the understanding they will build will also be off kilter.
I try to get ahead of this by testing gently each week for student ideas about the material for the next week. But even when I do find misperceptions before content is covered, I am not as good at using this information in class to do anything about it. TELLING students “It doesn’t work like this” isn’t effective, but I never seem to have the time to design class activities that would work better. Several sites I have seen seem to be suggesting that you should just “re-cover” that material, but since traditional instruction didn’t work once….. Misperceptions, to the person holding them, are PERCEPTIONS. They don’t know they are wrong, and as shown in the video are very reluctant to give them up.
Add to To Do list: search for studies/resources related to effectiveness of different methods of dealing with specific misperceptions.
There is more material related to this video here.