Here’s an important truth: If we don’t address students’ preconceptions about topics directly they will likely continue to walk around with partial understanding or misunderstanding. Period. End of story. 

The first principle from How Students Learn:

Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.

Veritasium is a blog dedicated to misconceptions about science. A video that demonstrates this point well is here. If you don’t have time to watch it, here’s the jist:

Students watch a video that directly contradicts what many of them originally thought. A post-test reveals that after the video the students are more confident about the truth of their incorrect perceptions!

Why does this happen?

It is quite natural – our brains try to connect new information to something already in there. Trouble is…often times that connection is incorrect. Additionally, our egos seek information that confirms what we already believe to be true. Trouble with that is… we often think something confirms our beliefs even when it says something different or directly contradicts it!

3 strategies to correct misconceptions:

1) A Variation of K-W-L.  Instead of Know, try Think: T-W-L

What do you think you know?

What do you want to know?

What did you learn?






 2. Students keep a chart of revised thinking:

My Original Thoughts

My Revised Thoughts







3. Have students explain why typical misconceptions are untrue.

If you’ve taught the same subject for a while, you should be able to anticipate typical misconceptions students have. What strategies do you use to directly correct misconceptions? Share below!

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