Understanding Student Misconception Misconceptions can lead to false assumptions and interpretations about any given topic. Ormrod (2008), define misconceptions as “a belief that is not consistent with commonly accepted and well validated explanations of phenomena or events” (p. 254). Many factors such as wrong information contribute to students’ misconceptions about subjects. Many times misconceptions emerge from students’ trying to interpret the information they have received (Ormrod, 2008).
Similarly to Ormrod’s definition on misconceptions, Michael (2002) describes misconceptions as flawed interpretations. Students’ work hard at trying to interpret and process the information that is coming at them and sometimes the brain can overload forcing them to make sense of things the best way they know how to (Michael, 2002). As a result, this process leads to many misconceptions that need to be addressed before they become affixed in the mind and critically impede students’ ability to learn.
Wiggins & McTighe (2005), stress that “given the probability of deeply rooted misconception and the potential for misunderstanding, a proactive and for most of us, unfamiliar approach to assessment design is required” (p. 55). In other words, teachers should explore new and different approaches to curriculum design. Teachers need to realize that many of their students will bring misconceptions into the classroom. Furthermore, teachers need to understand that many factors such as up-bringing, environment, culture, and religion contribute to those misconceptions.
Therefore, before teachers can begin to correct the misconceptions students bring into the classroom, teachers must first understand where the misconception originated. According to Wiggins & McTighe (2005), “misunderstandings are not ignorance” (p. 51), there just misinterpreted information. In the classroom, teachers will encounter misconceptions regarding every subject from History, Math, English, Science, etc. For example, as stated in the book Understanding by Design, Wiggins & McTighe (2005) describe that some students believe that English and Spanish use the same word but pronounce them differently.
While it’s true that some words in English and Spanish are spelled the same and pronounced differently, that’s not the case for every word. In other example Wiggins & McTighe (2005) mention is a students misunderstanding entirely what the Louisiana Purchase signified. To be more specific, the student asked the teacher “what did Louisiana purchase? ” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 51). Indicating that the student thought Louisiana was a person who made a purchase. All students are not created equal and different students process information differently.
Perhaps the student that asked the question only processed the words Louisiana and purchase and concluded her on assumption. As stated earlier, misunderstandings must be addressed in all subjects, Science is no exception. As an aspiring Science teacher, I understand that the subject is not immune from student misunderstandings. In an article written in the New York Science Teacher website (2010), science misconceptions are naive theories that are not scientifically correct. For example, a common student misunderstanding in Science is that the sun rotates around the earth.
If we think about, the concept of earth and the solar system is not discussed until children enter grade school. When I was a child, I never felt the earth move, therefore I concluded in my mind that it was the sun that rotated. Not until the topic of the solar system came up in my science class did I have the big revelation that indeed it is the earth that rotates around the sun. Although a simple concept, it took me sometime to accept that the earth rotates. I often try to use my own experiences to help me relate to student misunderstandings.
Whether we teach Spanish, Math, or Science, it is our duty to immediately correct such misunderstandings. However, Wiggins & McTighe (2005) highlight the fact that correcting the misunderstanding is just a quick fix, teachers need to get to the root of the misunderstanding to comprehend how the student came to such a conclusion. Once the teacher understands how and why the misunderstanding came about, he or she can use the feedback to help the student understand the information correctly.
Wiggins & McTighe point out in Understanding by Design (2005), that finding out student misunderstandings and understandings about a given subject and taking the information into consideration when designing a curriculum is essential to better learning. It is suggested by Wiggins & McTighe (2005), that teachers begin to approach curriculum design using the backward design method instead of the traditional route. The backward design approach suggest that teachers should identify what it is they want the students to learn then work backwards to design an effective lesson plan (www. pixel. fhda. edu).
Wiggins & McTighe (2005) identify the three stages of backward design as: • Stage 1- identify desired results (what is it that you want your students to learn) • Stage 2- determine acceptable evidence (use assessments to determine what your students have leaned) • Stage 3- Plan learning experiences and instruction (what will your students need to achieve the learning goals) For example, in the case of the student who believes that the sun rotates around the earth, the objective or desired result is to have the student have a clear picture and understanding of the relationship between the earth and the sun.
The tools and assessments used would be reading from the text or other resources available, viewing a short film on the sun-earth relationship, having class discussions about the topic, and working on worksheets, charts, and diagrams about the topic. Such activities will help students to understand the relationship between the earth and the sun. Finally, put it all into a well though out lesson plan and have effective strategies to relay the information to the students. According to Wallace (2000) meaningful curriculum development should be the approach of all teachers.
Similarly, Shawer (2010) state the fact that teachers need to find effective strategies to curriculum design if they are to make an impact in the classroom. In addition to effective learning outcomes, a well designed curriculum minimizes stress on the teacher and helps minimize class disruptions (Wong, 2004). In order to keep things fresh and interesting in the classroom, teachers need to explore different and approaches to curriculum design (O’Neill, 2010). I believe that by using the backward design approach to teaching, I will be able to alleviate some of the key obstacles in future understanding in my classroom.
Wiggins & McTighe (2005) highlight the fact that identifying the objectives and goals of the learning outcomes will yield learning success. As Wiggins & McTighe (2005) suggest, “having a clear goal helps to focus planning and guide purposeful action toward the intended result” (p. 19). Following state standards and lesson objectives will help me gather valuable information on what students need to learn. Also, Collaborating with my more veteran and qualified colleagues will help me gain further knowledge on effective teaching strategies.
One advantage I might have as a new teacher is I’m coming into the field with the concept of backward design being common, verses trying to break out of old habits. Veteran teachers could have a more challenging time using backward design because they have to break out of the traditional design habit. As we all know, teaching and learning are a difficult process. The education system of America continues to search for ways to better educate children. The struggle still continues and becomes increasingly difficult as standards become more stringent and students become more diverse.
However, regardless if you’re a new or veteran teacher, the goal is to provide the most effective and enjoyable learning environment for students. Reference O’Neill, G. (2010). Initiating Curriculum Revision: Exploring the Practices of Educational Developers. Retrieved September 3, 2010, from http://wf2dnvr2. webfeat. org/gH9s016057/ur/=http://web. ebscohost. com/ehost/detail? vid=1&hid=&sid=99bfs115-38 Ormrod, J. E. (2008). Educational Psychology Developing Learners. (6th Ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Columbus, OH: Pearson Education Shawer, S. F. (2010).
Classroom Level Curriculum Development: EFL Teachers as Curriculum Developers, Curriculum Makers and Curriculum Transmitters. Retrieved September 3, 2010, fromhttp://wfdnvr2. webfeat. org/gH95016001/url=http://web. ebscohost. com/ehost/detail? vid=1&hid=12&sid=66e469cd-8 Wallace, T. (2000). Values and Spirituality: Enriching Curriculum Development and Teaching/Learning Process for a New Millennium. Retrieved September 3, 2010, from http://wf2dnvr2. webfeat. org/gH9s0155953/url=http://web. ebscohost. com/ehost/detail? vid=1&hid=8&sid=bba498f9-99dd Wiggins, G. , McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. (2nd Ed).