A Partnership of
Life Science Organizations

Login/Register
Please Log In
E-mail Address

Password

Remember Me

Forget your password?
Reset it here.

Don't have an account?
Register here!

You must log in in order to submit a teaching resource, save or e-mail your searches and resources, review a teaching resource, or participate in community discussions.

Follow Us

Community Forums - LifeSciTRC Scholars and Fellows - Students' Science Misconceptions

A discussion forum for participants of the LifeSciTRC Scholars and Fellows Programs. If you would like to contribute to the forums or to change your subscription, please log in to the left.

As social media and the internet grow more popular, so does the chance that students are exposed to science misconceptions (think fast-spreading Facebook posts, viral video like the Mermaid special from Animal Planet, etc.). We want to know your experience with science misconceptions among your students. Please answer the following questions:

  • What is one science misconception that you have observed among your students?
  • How do you think electronic resources foster or contribute to this science misconception?
  • What can you, as a teacher, do to correct this misconception?
This thread was posted on March 21, 2014 at 4:50 PM ET by Miranda Byse.
  |   115 Replies   |   Last on 11/27/2019 at 5:03 AM ET
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I agree with the notion that misconceptions can really spread quickly due to social media, but I can't think of anything more specific that general nutritional claims and information.  Most of what I get questioned about or direct questions about are misconceptions about a certain vitamin/mineral/supplement being the quick fix for either healing some disease, causing dramatic weight loss, or increasing muscle mass.  I think the best way to address it is by slowly, methodically, and consistently modelling and teaching critical evaluation and thinking.  Show students which questions to ask, where to find scientific data and information, and then how to evaluate the claims with what data actually reveals.   We live in a society of 'claims' and quick fixes, showing students how to think scientifically about such issues is the only way to address the issue.  

This was posted on March 23, 2014 at 5:45 PM ET by Dan Bartsch.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Dan: That is a good example. I remember a lot of people talking about the 'Hoxley Method' to cure cancer a few years back. When the FDA shut them down in 17 states simultaeously; they moved operations to Tijuana, Mexico. They believed Red clover and other red plants cured cancer. It turns out they were correct because the red pigments are an anti-oxident and are recommended as a cure for cancer in our diets today. Curious how it all came back around...

This was posted on April 8, 2014 at 11:46 AM ET by Jerry Cronin.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Even further back was the peah pit with arsenic myth.

This was posted on July 6, 2014 at 8:12 PM ET by George Steer.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I am not sure whether what I am writing here is a misconception or not.

Sometimes, when I ask students to find out more about a particular concept, they tend to find the information from google rather than reading the recommended text books. They say its more easier.

 

 I tell them to recheck  the information from text books as the information from internet is not always accurate. And also I tell them that for the assessments we will be using text book content and not internet content.

 

This was posted on March 27, 2014 at 11:15 PM ET by Reem Abraham.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I agree that students seem to come into college classes with out a good sense of what consitutes a reliable source.   They will google.   I think an interesting exercise would be to pick a concept, google, see what they get (compare student discoveries) and then go for more rigorous sources and discuss the differences.

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 4:10 PM ET by Christina Wilson-Bowers.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

...particularly if the source is trying to sell something...that would be my point. You have a few people give testimonials that your 'miracle cure' works and then sell it. A few years back they were selling an Ojibway tea called 'Essiac' (Cassie- the nurse more or less spelled backwards) which was supposed ot be a miracle cure for cancer.

This was posted on April 8, 2014 at 11:49 AM ET by Jerry Cronin.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

That's a good idea.  GThey all want to google and I tell them they may not when they are writing something for the course.

This was posted on July 6, 2014 at 8:13 PM ET by George Steer.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

That's a good idea.  They all want to google and I tell them they may not when they are writing something for the course.

This was posted on July 6, 2014 at 8:13 PM ET by George Steer.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Very good exercise - I've also done one where my first year students have to find a newspaper or online article about a drug or nutritional supplement then find the original article that the information was pulled from and compare the two - it definitely opens their eyes.

This was posted on July 11, 2014 at 6:56 PM ET by Nicolette Richardson.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I am not so sure about students but definitly a lot of misconceptions happen among the faculty colleagues. But the flip side of this starnge situtation is that a deep mistrust develops to all Digital / Internet / Social Media resources so much so that even genuine information is treated with suspect & doubt.

Students definitly google a lot but then that is extra work they would rather not undertake especially in an assessment driven educational environment; they tend to believe anything in print. Unfortunately it is what is in print that is badly influenced by unverified scientific facts. I am encouraging students to actually verify printed resources with valid trusted resources online.

I can guide and recommend the students regarding sites to visit or trust BUT I would like them to learn to learn; search to search and I am sure they will reach that stage of learning where they will be able to discern what is correct and what is not.

This was posted on March 28, 2014 at 1:27 AM ET by JAIDEEP RAYAPUDI.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Jaideep, I think you touched on a very important point.  With entertainment-news networks, celebrities and politicians making and promoting inaccurate scientific claims, and so many websites with different viewpoints about scientific information, people are starting to view science as opinion that they can believe or disbelieve, rather than observational and experimental evidence to evaluate and accept or reject.  It is a cultural problem I can't even begin to think about how to solve!

This was posted on March 29, 2014 at 1:58 PM ET by Kelly Sjerven.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Students have misconceptions about science on a regulary basis.  I cannot think of a specific ond right now but I know there are many.  In my experience, students believe everything they hear, read, or see.  The internet has contributed to this problem.  I believe to help "solve" this problem we need to have our students research what they believe and use their critical thinking to determine what is truth or not.  As a teacher, I can help students know what reputible sources to use and to help them realize everything they "hear" is not true.

This was posted on March 28, 2014 at 1:08 PM ET by Andrea Kosinski.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The internet is a tricky one.  Sometimes students can use it to get a good base for background information, but they sometimes find unreliable sources.  I still require students to use journal articles and books for the papers they turn in to me.  It's sometimes amazing how little actually gets checked out from a library these days!

This was posted on October 25, 2014 at 10:10 PM ET by Nicole Palenske.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I teach Introduction to Toxicology and we do a weekly "Toxicology in the News" discussion wherein they bring in articles/links from the news. We often find things that are in the environment or exposures caused by "Very Toxic Compound X".  The media is particularly bad in reflecting the concepts of dose, hazard and risk, so we spend a lot of time in the discussion considering the source of the article and its validity once they have come to appreciate the relationship between dose, hazard and risk. I try and get them to think more critically of what they read with examples like these.

This was posted on March 28, 2014 at 4:04 PM ET by Kristine Willett.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

"Toxicology in the News" is a great idea! I've also heard of (though I haven't personally looked into it yet) the Boston Museum of Science's "Behind the Headlines" which seems similar, with topics from all different fields of science.

This was posted on March 28, 2014 at 5:56 PM ET by Diana Cryderman.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

This is a great excercise. I may incorporate this into my classes as well. Our school has started a First year inquiry class and a senior capstone where studetns have to investigate a topic through inquiry which can be literature based. I think the key is to teach them to think and use logic rather than just collect information and write papers.

This was posted on March 31, 2014 at 11:10 AM ET by Lara Madison.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I agree with a lot of the posts below. First of all, it seems that students have a difficult time figuring out which sources are legitimate (e.g., referencing Wikipedia or blogs). There is an obstacle in teaching the value of peer-reviewed literature.

Students often take media for face value. During on discussion, I gave student groups articles from the Onion, but blocked out the journal name (I tried to pick articles that were somewhat realistic). All but one group fully believed in the ‘facts’ presented. I then told them that the articles were not real, leading to the discussion of misconception. Later in the semester, students were given a topic to research. They were to find peer reviewed articles representing both the ‘pros’ and the ‘cons’ of their topic.  Most students could find many papers discussing the ‘pros’ and few to none discussing ‘cons’, thus believing that there must not be any cons. This led to the discussion of misconceptions of literature bias.

It seems like a whole course in critical reading and literature searches could be offered. I teach introductory courses, so most students are at a beginning level. Depending on the initial status of the students, critical reading skills need to be developed on many levels.

 

This was posted on March 28, 2014 at 5:54 PM ET by Diana Cryderman.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

What a great activity! I have a class that this sort of activity would work well in. Thank you for sharing.

This was posted on March 29, 2014 at 3:39 PM ET by Lynn Diener.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I love the idea of this activity.    Challenges students to think critically.   Just because something is in writing doesn't mean it is true or accurate.  How do the students respond once they figure out they have been duped?  

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 4:16 PM ET by Christina Wilson-Bowers.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

That's an awesome idea. On the topic of wikipedia though, I've been rethinking my policy of not allowing it.  Maybe instead of eschewing it, we should be contributing to it by verifying and adding credible citations.  I've not tried it yet with any of my courses.

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 9:27 PM ET by Jeff DeJongh.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Lovely idea. I will have to find time to incorporate this into a few of my classes

This was posted on March 31, 2014 at 11:12 AM ET by Lara Madison.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I love the Onion idea!

This was posted on October 17, 2014 at 3:10 PM ET by Karen Groh.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Scientific literacy for all students is a noble goal for all science teachers to have. I hope that the science practices of the NGSS will encourage us to consider how we can have students evaluate multiple sources and the validity of claims and evidence.  

Every topic in Biology has science misconceptions attached to it.  In Genetics (the topic I am currently teaching), these may include "Males genes are stronger than females, so the child will look more like the dad, usually"  and genetic determinism - some groups are smarter or better than others or that intelligence is fixed.  These miconceptions usually arise from previous experiences or beliefs as well as learning.  

I think there is a whole second set of misconceptions which deal with pseudoscience or sensationalism in the news.  These are things like zombies, the mermaids, miracle drugs, etc, similar to what Ben Goldacre discusses in his Ted Talk.

As a teacher, I think the best way to address these is to let the evidence speak.  I have students discover and decide for themselves what is true (sometimes I help find reputable places to look for the counterargument).  Often students want to know, "Well what do you think?"  My response is usually, "Well, let's see what the science or data say.."

I think this is part of our job to empower students and create a more democratic society.  We need to support students in being critical friends with the world and not to be afraid to ask questions or demand more evidence.

 

This was posted on March 28, 2014 at 10:52 PM ET by Jenny Sarna.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

A few misconceptions that I can think of off the top of my head:  vaccines are known to cause ADD/ADHD, if you cloned yourself your clone would be just like you, evolution is something you can "believe" or "not believe", all bacteria are bad, antibiotics can cure/treat viral diseases, genetically modified foods are known to cause health problems, global warming means it's going to get warmer and drier everywhere...

Students who are not trained to use electronic resources appropriately often find information that supports the misconception.  For example, they think the first site that comes up in a poorly worded Google search will tell them everything they need to know, or think that a YouTube video made by students in a high school biology class is accurate just because it is on the internet.

As others have mentioned, students need to be taught how to evaluate and select quality, academic, peer-reviewed resources, or at least good-quality, accurate reports about scientific studies.  I need to do a better job of this in my introductory classes.  I think if students leave my non-majors science classes knowing how to find scientifically accurate information about a topic they are interested in, I would feel comfortable reducing the content covered in the course.  In majors-level courses, I think I could create assignments that cover both content and research/resource evaluation skills fairly easily.  

This was posted on March 29, 2014 at 1:46 PM ET by Kelly Sjerven.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Kelly,

I think that is the biggest struggle I have. Skills versus content. The students are coming to my majors classes with so many misconceptions from High School, I feel I need to cover the content. On the other hand, I feel I need them to have the skills to evaluate material and look at the literature. I want them to be good scientific citizens. 

As science advances the amount of material we need to cover grows larger, yet the time to teach it remains the same. At some point, as a society we are going to need to extend the time for the undergraduate degrees as well as the professional degrees in Health Care relate fields.

This was posted on March 31, 2014 at 11:18 AM ET by Lara Madison.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

There are just so many misconceptions that students can bring to the table. One that's always fun in Ecology is that nutrient loading in a body of water leads to algae blooms and then the algae takes up all the oxygen leading to oxygen depleted water. Another misconception is that correlation equals causation. I spend a lot of time trying to break down that myth.

I think that electronic resources can either contribute to misconceptions (if they are inaccurate) or help to break them apart, depending on the resource. As others have mentioned, there are so many things available on the internet that are not peer reviewed and promote ideas and opinions that are not supported by the scientific literature. 

As far as correcting these misconceptions, telling them that their misconception is not supported by evidence rarely has any impact on changing their views. If you can help them to find evidence they believe from sources they trust (such as their own experience) this is probably the best way I've found to correct misconceptions. It can be so different for each student though. I'm brought to mind of a very bright student I had who was convinced she needed antibiotics every time she got a cold. I told her time and again that antibiotics would do nothing for her if she was suffering from a viral infection. Her experience told her differently though, she felt sick, took the drugs and felt better (as she would have without them). I don't think I ever convinced her that antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections, neither did her other biology or chemistry teachers. Personal experience and long held beliefs are hard to change. 

This was posted on March 29, 2014 at 3:49 PM ET by Lynn Diener.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Great point about the difference between correlation and causation! I have used the example of showing graphs that have the amount of ice cream eaten and violent crimes are both highest in Florida, but that does not mean eating ice cream causes violent crimes...

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 2:00 PM ET by Aubrey Mikos.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

As it's been a few years since I have taught non-majors, freshman biology, I haven't had daily contact with ludicrous scientific misconceptions. Evaluating credibility of resources, interpreting information, etc. are all struggles that we deal with regularly. One of my pet peeves is when college students try to use resources designed for school children as a reference for their assignments. They would be embarassed to use a children's book for one of their assignments, but they think nothing of using a children's website for a reference.

I truly understand that if the information is accurate, one can make the claim of 'why can't I use it?' To explain to them that they are college students and a certain level of depth of understanding is required of them is met with fierce resistance.

Most of the misconceptions that I come in contact with these days are minor. For example, one resource may say that the thymus is where lymphocytes go to die whereas most of the others say that lymphocytes mature in the thymus. On the surface this seems like an either/or situation, but upon further examination of the offending resources as well as the primary literature the misconception is rather one of presentation. Yes, the thymus is where many lymphocytes die BUT these are lymphocytes that have not successfully completed the maturation process. The difference is subtle but also significant.

In general, I try to avoid arguments but rather explore why the misconception started in the first place.

This was posted on March 29, 2014 at 4:23 PM ET by Carol Britson.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I hear you on trying to avoid arguments! It is mind bogglin that students think information from social media is more reliable than information from their teachers!

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 2:24 PM ET by Aubrey Mikos.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

On the subjet of arguements. I do not have trouble addressing  misconceptins without an arguement. My trouble in class is keeping the students from arguing. I have fostered an environment where we question the concepts, do we have all the information, does this make sense. Often when we create a concept map, students are so competitive and want to be right that they do not see that they both have legititmate parts of the discussion and the answer is more correct with both their input. It seems like they just want the pat on the back and win.

This was posted on March 31, 2014 at 11:26 AM ET by Lara Madison.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I agre that students believe anything that I, or anyone with percieved authority says about science.  I keep on meaning to show this to my students: here is a great website to give your students with a list of questions about this endangered species: The Pacific Northwest Tree Octupus.  http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/.  I think I may use this next week as an example that everything that you see on the web....needs to be checked over and verified.

This was posted on March 29, 2014 at 6:35 PM ET by Meghan Wilson.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I have noticed a lot of misconceptions the past few semesters.  My biggest one is not just students; it is societal: the difference between a hypothesis and a theory.  I really get annoyed, for example, when evolution is dismissed because it is "just a theory."    Another big one was hinted at in the video: how quickly (or slowly) science actually moves.  The others are from my classes: such as respiration only in animals because photosynthesis is in plants; a son gets more of his traits from his father, and a daughter from mother; and one I think I saw in someone else's post: supplement pills, especially oral ones, for treatments.

Electronic sources contribute to these because the ones that come up first on a search are typically wikipedia and similar unedited or unreviewed sites.  Students, especially introductory ones, are not trained to identify good from bad.  The media emphasis on sensationalism does not help.

 

To correct: there is my blunt force method.  I tell students I will not accept use of wikipedia and similar sites.  In my writing intensive classes,  I emphasize what makes a source good or not, and make them use in their own writing, and look in others, proper use of sources and citations.  In all classes, I try to emphasize proper scientific method more than I used to.

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 1:25 PM ET by Daniel Williams.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

It might be useful to find some convincing yet incorrect websites and have students critically evaluate them.  Something that might shake their comfort with belief in what they find online.  Just a thought..

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 10:25 PM ET by Terry Derting.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

It might be useful to find some convincing yet incorrect websites and have students critically evaluate them.  Something that might shake their comfort with belief in what they find online.  Just a thought..

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 10:25 PM ET by Terry Derting.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I think we are all in agreement that it is generally not one current misconception that sticks in our minds, but the constant battle against the growing ease to access information and data without questioning its validity. Undergraduate students are quick to google everything and rely on Wikipedia, believing everything to be true and giving little thought to whether anything has been reviewed.

In our second year neuroscience tutorials this term we have been teaching students the process of peer-review and how to read and understand published journal papers. This is so useful. None of them have any idea on how grants are obtained and how papers are published and the rigorous review process. It makes them question what sources they use as well. I think it would be useful to look at electronic resources too. We try and encourage students to by all means use the internet and use Wikipedia as a starting point, but go read an original review or even the actual research before merrily citing it in your project report. I think the worse example of an incorrect reference to use was given to me last term. As part of a lab report on taste, one student used a webpage entitled ‘food and wine’ as a reference rather than textbooks or review papers. They even took a tongue map figure from here that when you look at the website clearly states the original textbook reference!! I wish they would at least bookmark Pubmed and use it sometimes!

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 1:31 PM ET by .
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I agree that websites such as wikipedia or pateint group sites or medical sites about supplements or diseases are a good starting point for ideas. I also encourage this. After doing our evaluation of a website we use. I realized that I knew the information was accurate form experience, but I had not evaluated the person, their association or their motivation for creating the site. I think in the future, I may make students add the evaluation sheet for a wesite if they site a website. 

I think the key is getting the students to pause and think about what they are doing.

This was posted on March 31, 2014 at 11:33 AM ET by Lara Madison.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I teach mostly high school freshman, and have heard some of the craziest things! I'm not sure how they get out of middle school still thinking that insects are not animals... but that is always a common misconception. I also hear LOTS of misconcenptions when we cover the reproductive system!

Social media is a huge issue for my students. Several times a week, I hear "I saw XYZ on facebook, Twitter...." If it's something that I can explain outright I will sometimes just correct them or explain why it is false and move on. Other times, I use it as a jumping off point to make them do some research and take the whole class that way. Whatever they saw has caught their attention, so may as well run with it!

Whenever they are doing research I try to make them find at least 2 sources with the same information to try to make their data stronger. Teaching them how to judge whether or not a site is reliable is hard and time consuming, but very very necessary!

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 2:20 PM ET by Aubrey Mikos.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

One misconception that I encounter and unravel in my classes has to do with how science works.   Students often have a sense that science is a fully objective process and that scientific concepts are firm, factual and not subject to change.

I strive to expose students to cases in science where our assumptions as scientists held us back in ultimately finding an answer: (ex:  bacteria as causitive agents of peptic ulcer disease).   I also strive to introduce or weave into our class objectives, new and evolving research where the answers are not yet known.

I think it can be "eye opening" for students to recognize that we often have more questions than answers and that the process of "doing science" has a lot to do with how to design a good experiment and frame really good questions.

I think that the media as a whole (as seen in the Ben Goldacre TED talk) plays a role in perpetuating the idea of science as fact driven and always accurate.   It can be eye opening for students to realize that multiple labs may present evidence that contradicts-what do you do then?  This is where the teaching can be really fun, as students learn to think critically and evaluate, especialy primary literature.

I think that students need to gain an understanding of the different resources that we use:  wikepedia is not the same as NCBI...

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 4:08 PM ET by Christina Wilson-Bowers.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

i think that students have many misconceptions, but a couple that are different from other classmates are the following.

As part of the program I teach, students rotate through the departments at the local hospital. Students always say that it is different than they expected. They think that it is going to be like the TV show " Grey's Anatomy". Having the students go to the hospital helps to break or change their misconception.

Another misconception is that students have is that they think that doctors are all knowing, perfect providers that make no mistakes. At the very beginning of my program, I have my students read "Complications" by Atul Gawande. This book really shows that medicine is an imperfect science and that doctors must " practice" on patients in order to become semi-perfect. I also try to teach the students that it is ok to question doctors and be active participants in their own health care.

Jennifer

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 7:26 PM ET by Jennifer Militello.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I teach a similar program at my school.  The students are sometimes suprised at the amount of downtime there is- as if the patients get sick and critical just during the hours they are there.  That is a good tip about the "Complications" book, one of our guest speakers mentioned it too.  will have to add it to my summer read.  Do you have them read the whole thing or just excerpts?

This was posted on April 10, 2014 at 10:16 AM ET by camille jensen.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The presence of medical talk shows like Dr. Oz and The Doctors has caused a lot of science misconceptions for my students.  Social media enhances the belief of some of these misconceptions.  I teach in exercise science program and fitness and weight loss are big topics of discussion.  Ever since Dr. Oz told everyone to start taking green coffee beans and raspberry ketones, I have had to address the mechanisms and concepts behind this new revelation lol.  Today, students tend to believe in these items when pushed by celebrities. 

I teach my students to also research any physiology and/or data behind any new trend.  Since most of my students aspire to become strength and conditioning coaches and/or exercise physiologists, I encourage them to always make sure all of their fitness and nutrition programs are science-based.

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 8:19 PM ET by Adrienne Bratcher.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I remember hearing about this but didn't think much of it.this could be the premise for a good teaching case study to teach students about these types of fad diets

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 9:24 PM ET by Jeff DeJongh.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I find it amusing that the biggest misconception I deal with every year has no ties to the internet. It's the misguided thought that blood is blue until it reaches the air. Once I hear a student mention it I climb on my soapbox and rent away.

 

In my classes I have not seen a social media misconception that gains any momentum but I have seen students fall prey to advertisements that sometimes gather a following. I find that digital search engines that can quickly dispel these misconceptions, as long as you use credible sources.

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 9:21 PM ET by Jeff DeJongh.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

April Fools Day makes it worse...

This was posted on April 10, 2014 at 10:25 AM ET by camille jensen.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Many students think that science is unchanging truth, rather than our best understanding based on the evidence available.  Much of what is presented in the media is stated as fact rather than tentative and subject to change as new evidence becomes available.  Students need to learn how to critically evaluate information in the media.  The history of science, current developments in science, or hands-on science projects are all useful to teach students that knowledge is subject to change as we learn more and to help students realize that questioning is a never-ending process in science.

This was posted on March 30, 2014 at 10:19 PM ET by Terry Derting.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

In my physiology class students often say the lungs are part of the cardiovascular system. They have trouble with the nuance that an organ is linked with a body system by their main function. The lungs are part of the respiratory system and capilaries are part of the cardiovascular sysetm. The respiratory and cardiovascular system work together too get enviromental oxygen to the cells for cellular respiration and removal of CO2 fromt he tissues to the environment.  Just because capilaries are intertwined with alveoli does not mean the lungs are part of the cardiovacular system. I find that alot of the misconceptions that come up in class are related to their High School experience.

The only defense against misconceptions either from prior knowledge or electronic resources is teaching logic and the ever changing face of science. Students are so engrained in the concept that science is static and is a collection of facts. I challenge my students to question science and look at the logic of the arguement.

This was posted on March 31, 2014 at 11:05 AM ET by Lara Madison.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

General biology students are confused about the role of cell respiration in plants.  They think that photosynthesis is really just cell respiration in the plant.  Although electronic resources may contribute to this misconception, I am more inclined to say the misconception is a result of students memorizing the parts of cell respiration and photosynthesis without really understanding the concepts.  To correct misconceptions (those that I am aware exist), I often  survey student's knowledge (by asking specific questions related to the misconception) and immediately address the misconceptions.

  • What can you, as a teacher, do to correct this misconception?
This was posted on April 2, 2014 at 8:58 PM ET by Jessica Ibarra.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I specifically point out to the freshmen about cell parts-  LOOK plant cells have mitochondria too!  What does that say about the amount of oxygen they use?  what does this tell us about the amount they produce?

This was posted on April 10, 2014 at 10:20 AM ET by camille jensen.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

One of the most fundamental problems I have encountered with Native American Indian students in STEM areas is that of inductive logic. Typically we ask students to observe something in the science lab in 2 or 3 trials and then conclude what happened. Of course on standardized tests it is entirely deductive with 1 correct answer and 1 detractor as well as 2 garbage responses (typically). Inductive reasoning can work and indeed often works but what if I wake up every morning for 2 weeks at 5 a.m. and then the sun rises AFTER I get up. I conclude that my getting up causes the sun to rise. This is the crux of the problem it seems to me.

One other area of concern was the recent move a few years back into ethnoscience and ethno math. I agree that there are many concepts that can be flushed out from these perspectives but ther eis also a lot of poorly researched and poorly executed misconceptions that are perpetuated. I might swear by a Navajo shaman to cure my colorectal and/or bladder cancer and if it appears to work we credit the sucking of witches darts out of my back but what about the other 5 or 6 times it didn't work? That would be an excellent example of bad science....

This was posted on April 8, 2014 at 11:43 AM ET by Jerry Cronin.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Social media or no every year during the Evolution unit a student will say that "we came from monkeys"  I think that they imagine sort of a wolf man effect where one day monkey and next day human.  We spend a lot of time talking about common ancestry and cladograms after that.

This was posted on April 10, 2014 at 10:24 AM ET by camille jensen.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I find many of the students in my General Biology class (2-yr college) are tend to considered most microscopic pathogenic organisms as "bacteria", even if they are actually a virus or fungus.  Similarly, they tend to think all bacteria are pathogenic.  Of course, understanding the difference is key to understanding antibiotic effectiveness, vaccines, etc.  When I first transitioned from working in the biotech field to teaching, I took for granted that these distinctions were understood by the general population, but realizing I was wrong has helped me clarify my teaching.

This was posted on June 25, 2014 at 8:13 AM ET by matthew carrigan.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I find many of the students in my General Biology class (2-yr college) are tend to considered most microscopic pathogenic organisms as "bacteria", even if they are actually a virus or fungus.  Similarly, they tend to think all bacteria are pathogenic.  Of course, understanding the difference is key to understanding antibiotic effectiveness, vaccines, etc.  When I first transitioned from working in the biotech field to teaching, I took for granted that these distinctions were understood by the general population, but realizing I was wrong has helped me clarify my teaching.

This was posted on June 25, 2014 at 8:14 AM ET by matthew carrigan.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The idea that all "bacteria" are pathogenic is a common misconception I come across. I like talking about the microflora of the gut when I teach physiology. Thankfully due to the popularity of probiotics and people's personal experiences of digestive issues when on antibiotics, more and more people are beginning to give bacteria some respect. I also tell students about fecal transplants. I've found that students tend to remember that story because of how gross yet effective they can be.

This was posted on July 9, 2014 at 10:37 AM ET by Terri Holzen.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The "all bacteria are bad" misconception is constantly reinforced by the barrage of antibacterial products on the market.  In all types of media people are encouraged to sanitize everything all the time.  I think it is important to include bacteria in discussions of ecosystems on large and small scales.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:07 PM ET by Janice Fritz.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The "all bacteria are bad" misconception is constantly reinforced by the barrage of antibacterial products on the market.  In all types of media people are encouraged to sanitize everything all the time.  I think it is important to include bacteria in discussions of ecosystems on large and small scales.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:08 PM ET by Janice Fritz.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Students are exposed to both good resources and bad resources (those based on misconceptions.  Interestingly, I believe that both "good" resources and those with misconception can serve a purpose.  One thing you can do is use misconception resources as a discussion, oint to open students to the idea that not all out on the web is true, and make them teachable moments.  If students pick up on viral videos, or other things shared online (hoaxes, etc.) you can use the content to start a class discussion and get their feedback/input.  Once you have their attention, you can correct their misconception.

This was posted on June 26, 2014 at 10:09 PM ET by Jessica Ibarra.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I agree; misconceptions and discussions about them help students to start thinking.

This was posted on July 7, 2014 at 10:30 AM ET by Par Mohammadian.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Students always enjoy the idea that drinking a glass of wine every day is good for your heart. Students believe (or want to believe) these types of misconception (mostly fed by media, especially TV) without asking any questions.

I usually ask them to find the source of the information. Many times these studies are supported by the industry that markets the material. It is very crucial for the students to find the entire information - finding the source - and how bias the source is. They still have to analyze what kind of wine, age, restrictions, etc. and use their critical thinking skills.

This was posted on July 7, 2014 at 10:27 AM ET by Par Mohammadian.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I think this a great idea for turning student opinions about popular sceince related ideas into teachable moments where they can learn how to think about what they read on the Internet.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:08 AM ET by Rachel Beattie.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I cannot describe a student misconception directly but I will share that my family told me that a multivitamin was a waste of money. I searched the info and found on "WebMD" that doctors and medical reseearchers were "urging" us to stop wasting money.  When I went to the three articles in the Annal of Internal Medicine Dec 17, 2013 I did not see any evidence that a miultivitamin had no essential dietary benefit.  An editorial in the same issue commented that high doses of multivitamins and supplements did not prevent cancer or aid in the treatment of chronic diseases in the well fed person.  Well, I KNOW we all have perfect diets and eat enough spinach each day to derive the RDA for its vitamins but I am not one of those people.  WebMD!!!  The fast pace of social media can only make this worse.  We A&P teachers should consider how we present the "scientific method" and I for one now have an idea for a new assignment.  Thanks for the thought provoking topic.

This was posted on July 7, 2014 at 2:16 PM ET by George Steer.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The misconception I repeatedly see my students struggle with is the concept that variation among species is NOT the same as evolution.  Students see differences among species and try to explain it as evidence that something makes those differences an advantage and thus an improvement and they want to use “survival of the fittest” without knowing what that means.  Electronic resources that focus on the small differences between members of a species help reinforce this misconception and in particular, resources that include visuals (pictures or videos) without including information about how variations occur on the molecular level.  While I enjoy nature videos some of them are the worst when it comes to following one member or one family of an animal species and pointing out the survival skills it has (which are just as likely to be a result of chance mutation).  Every opportunity I get to address differences I do – and we spend considerable amount of time studying the how of variations.  I have students learn Punnett squares but we really spend much more time demonstrating how changes in DNA à RNA à protein can result in small, seemingly insignificant changes in an organism.  Then my students can use resources that demonstrate what external forces can shape those protein changes.

This was posted on July 7, 2014 at 4:49 PM ET by Anne Artz.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Anne, have you watched Cosmos? The episode on evolution was very nicely done. It didnt' talk too much about variation on the molecular level, but concepts like natural vs. artificial selection were very nicely addressed and explained. (I should have my smart non-scientist husband verify that for me!)

This was posted on July 10, 2014 at 9:51 AM ET by Terri Holzen.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I think tieing evolution and genetics together not only clarifies both concepts, but really helps debunk studetn misconceptions about evolution. It seems lots of peoples try to teach one topic or the other, but they are definitely tied together!

This was posted on July 13, 2014 at 8:46 PM ET by Aubrey Mikos.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The example that comes to mind first is the "dermal papilla."

In a written assignment, I had students explain the function of dermal papillae between the epidermis and dermis.  As expected, many went to wikipedia and found the fastest definition of this feature, they could find by plagiarizing a sentence. I know that's what happened because the first sentence, second paragraph in the dermal papilla says, "Blood vessels in the dermal papillae nourish all hair follicles and bring nutrients and oxygen to the lower layers of epidermal cells."

 

They didn't bother to read the textbook definitions and explanation (nevermind that we hadn't covered hair and hair follicles yet).  Further, they couldn't even be bothered to read the rest of the paragraph or sections they had taken from in wiki!

 

The easy availability of wikipedia makes this kind of sloppy answer-seeking both feasible and common.  Again, as I've said previously, I have nothing against wikipedia but I don't allow my students to transpose answers from it.  Hopefully, the distinction was learned by those students after this incident.

 

Well, in this case, the damage was done, and I had to take off points to help correct the behavior pattern.  I even had students argue with me that they found the answer on wikipedia so it must be right (shamelessly!).  In the future, I have made my distinctions about when/when not and how to use common digital resources clearer.

This was posted on July 9, 2014 at 8:08 AM ET by Dave Knight.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I see that we all have a problem with wikipedia (here and our on discussion board) being identifed as main resource by our students. I was thinking that may be we should find an article in there that is defined incorecctly that can also be identifed by the students right away - since us explaining to them does not work. 

This was posted on July 9, 2014 at 10:13 AM ET by Par Mohammadian.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Incorrect is harder to find than incomplete in my opinion.  Wikipedia has improved over the years in accuracy but is still lacking in thoroughness.

 

I think students will be students and still use it and I don't think it should be shied away from.  Not telling students to use it doesn't always work; telling students to use it carefully doesn't always work.  I think the object lesson approach that you suggested may be a viable alternative, but I don't expect it to work 100% either.

This was posted on July 9, 2014 at 11:46 AM ET by Dave Knight.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I already know in advance what kind of answer I will get when a student uses wikipedia and one way I've gotten around that is to put up that answer first - we talk about it in class and I show them what wikipedia says.  Then I ask them a similar (but not exactly the same) question that they can't get from wikipedia.  For example, I ask them to compare and contrast two similar terms (maybe terms that similar root words).  I also ask a lot of open-ended questions so that they can't cut and paste from any one source.  Using your term "dermal papilla" I might ask them a question like "based on what you know about dermal papilla, what other animals would you expect to fine them on and why?"

This was posted on July 9, 2014 at 12:20 PM ET by Anne Artz.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

excellent idea!

This was posted on July 9, 2014 at 3:36 PM ET by Dave Knight.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I can see that my students move from wiki to Google to find the answer.

This was posted on July 10, 2014 at 10:57 AM ET by Par Mohammadian.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

You are really skilled at developing higher level open ended questions!

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:00 AM ET by Rachel Beattie.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

A common misconception I see in my students (and in the general population) is "Natural is always better." I usually start these conversations by  asking them what natural means, then I bring up the fact that many plants and animals make toxins/drugs that humans mimic when they synthesize many medications. Other common misconceptions are drawing conclusions from one or two anecdotes (I know someone who...) and not differentiating between causation vs. correlation.

I've heard that people cling to scientific misconceptions more tenuously than their religious beliefs. (Sometimes those are interrelated...) I think a lot of electronic resources foster these misconceptions. There was a fake fact sheet about cancer from "John Hopkins" that made the rounds on the internet. Thankfully Johns Hopkins University put out their own fact sheet and pointed out that the one from John Hopkins was fake, so there are electronic resources that can correct the misconceptions. I think the misconceptions are often blanket statements--they're easier for people to understand or easier for people do or stop doing so they feel they have control over the situation--ex. "I won't vaccinate my kid so he won't get autism."

I think it's my job as a teacher to help people understand that most of the issues rooted in the misconception, whether that issues are disease, evolution, societal problems, etc., are multi-faceted and if an explanation/cure/prevention sounds too easy or too good to be true, it is probably fake. Some students realize this, other students need to learn through their own personal experience to maybe eventually correct the misconception.

 

This was posted on July 10, 2014 at 10:04 AM ET by Terri Holzen.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I saw the John Hopkins thing all over facebook. I bet there is a snopes link for this . Snopes for those who don't know, is a website that figures out internet hoaxes and provides the actual details on the topic..... I Just checked quick and there is!  http://www.snopes.com/medical/disease/cancerupdate.asp

This was posted on July 11, 2014 at 12:24 AM ET by Danielle Plomaritas.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The "natural is better" misconception is a big one.  I think that it is used by people in many situations from food selection (remember the Breyer's commercial with the little girls reading the list of ingredients in ice cream) to vaccinations (it's better to get the immunity naturally by having the disease, right?).  Natural may be better in some cases, but not in all. I like your use of toxins to dispel the misconception.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:25 PM ET by Janice Fritz.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Wow, there are so many I've encountered it's hard to remember them all. Common ones I find include "x,y,z causes or cures cancer" and of course misinformation with vaccines.

I think social media, facebook for example, really hinder scientific accuracy. With so many journals now published online, one would think scientificly accurate information would disseminate quickly and over-ride the misconceptions out there.  However, I think the flasy statements of blogs and photos with tag lines that populate facebook are just too overwhelming. I have friends and family even that "share" hot tag line photos about cures for diseases or that something prevents a disease, and this photo has 10K comments on it from people mainly agreeing.

I personally often feel overwhelmed trying to combat these things online. For about a year, I would nicely comment on these types of inaccurate facebook posts, and provide a link to a peer-reviewed article. The person who posted it originally would just get upset and not waver. In person, I've had more success by asking students essentially to tell me how they know this, or what the source of the information is. This allows for a gentle segway into scientific accuracy.

This was posted on July 11, 2014 at 12:18 AM ET by Danielle Plomaritas.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I think asking students to find/identify and evaluate the source of the information is most effective tool in beginning to address misconceptions perpetuated on social media.  It is overwhelming - but if every teacher did this we might have a chance of helping shape a generation of students with a more discerning mind.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:16 AM ET by Rachel Beattie.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

One misconception that I encounter on a regular basis are the effects of vitamins/supplements on factors such as body composition, athletic performance, and energy levels.  For example, 5-hour energy is a completely inaccurate name since by definition energy is the capacity to do work and is measured in calories.  Since 5-hr energy has only 4 calories it could never provide energy for 5 hours!  The reason it gives you energy is primarily due to its caffeine (stimulant) content.  It also has vitamins and some amino acids, but these compounds do not provide energy.  Another example are supplements that state they will “burn away your fat while you sleep”. This misconception is easy to dispute with the first law of thermodynamics since based on this law energy released in a reaction appears as work or heat. While sleeping you are doing little work therefore if you were breaking down fat for energy this energy would primarily be released as heat (no blanket ever required). You ask students if they are breaking into a sweat while they sleep and throwing away all of their blankets.  If these types of supplements were effective it would be a great way to save on heating bills in the winter (at least in Iowa). Electronic resources definitely contribute to and foster these misconceptions since the array of vitamins/supplements promising numerous health and athletic benefits is vast and are often promoted on the Internet.  Unfortunately, for the most part these claims are based on poor science or no science at all.  In addition, celebrities (e.g. Dr. Oz) contribute to this misinformation by promoting these items on television, websites, etc.  This misconception can also be fostered through forums like Facebook when people post inaccurate information based on personal experience. 

 

This was posted on July 11, 2014 at 3:34 PM ET by Kim Huey.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I started replying to all of the threads I agreed with, but it looks like its going to be too many, so I'll just broadly agree with several of you that anything to do with weight loss and nutritional supplement "miracles" is where I see the most misconceptions amongst my first year kinesiology students. You wouldn't believe how many times I have gotten an assignment with a reference to Dr. Oz, with the argument that "he's a doctor!" - BAH! 

As I mentioned in a response to someone else's post, I like to have my students compare a "scientific" piece from the newspaper or any media to the primary article to give them a realistic idea of how facts in the media can be skewed. I also provide a suggested list of online resources, but they always seem to discover some new and terrible ones each year.

This year, I will also be showing this clip (its a bit long but totally worth it!):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA0wKeokWUU&feature=kp

and if any of you have Dr. Oz troubles like I do, you might enjoy it!

This was posted on July 11, 2014 at 7:06 PM ET by Nicolette Richardson.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Dr. Oz and other authority figures is a great point. It seems like if anyone has an advanced degree, people may believe them on anything, when it probably should just be their area of expertise. For example, I would trust Dr. Oz on heart issues as he is a heart surgeon, but not necessarily on weight loss.

This was posted on July 11, 2014 at 7:30 PM ET by Danielle Plomaritas.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Dr. Oz and other authority figures is a great point. It seems like if anyone has an advanced degree, people may believe them on anything, when it probably should just be their area of expertise. For example, I would trust Dr. Oz on heart issues as he is a heart surgeon, but not necessarily on weight loss.

This was posted on July 11, 2014 at 7:30 PM ET by Danielle Plomaritas.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

One misconception issue that comes to mind is just the general lack of precision in using language to communicate thinking.  I think students I teach at the freshman level and even some of the junior/senior students lack the skill, and possibly/probably the maturity, to accurately communicate science knowledge.  Common examples that come to mind are the use of the word adapt as a verb when describing genetic variation and evolution (i.e. the mouse adapted by changing its fur color) or that humans "came from" apes (i.e. an ape gave birth to a human?) when describing human evolution.  I think students lack of knowledge about how to scientifically analyze information and patience in communicating what they mean contribute to these misconceptions.  We need to teach students how to critically read what they find on the Internet and on social media sites and hold them accoutnable to the fact that success is not instant - effective communication skills take concentrated effort and practice before they flow naturally.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 10:58 AM ET by Rachel Beattie.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I totally agree with what you said about the language especially in the evoltuion unit, I think it is important for us as teachers to take the time to work through what these words means beforehand and really give them the power to talk scientifically about these topics after our class

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 4:37 PM ET by Nicole Karges.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Building a science vocabulary is so crucial to your students' ability to understand what they read and analyze it for themselves. A lot of times I feel like students believe everything they read or hear just because they lack the basic understanding of what is being said..... kind of like how upset I get when CSI shows start rambling off body parts that make NO sense!

This was posted on July 13, 2014 at 8:49 PM ET by Aubrey Mikos.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I think  you have an important point about language and communication. One goal I would like to stress more in my class is the accurate use of language.

This was posted on October 17, 2014 at 3:09 PM ET by Karen Groh.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I think  you have an important point about language and communication. One goal I would like to stress more in my class is the accurate use of language.

This was posted on October 17, 2014 at 3:09 PM ET by Karen Groh.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Here are a few specifiic misconceptions from "news" and electronic media sources I encounter :

diet fads 

toxicology worries

But there are far more general misconceptions that are common, but probably not attributable to specific incidents:

Bacteria are always bad

"Natural" is always good (e.g. the Paleodiet)

antibiotics are an effective treatment for any infection/sickness (including viral).

vaccines lead to ADHD or autism

being religious is incompatible with accepting macro-evolution and scientific explanations for the origin of living things from non-living things. 

"Science" gives a definitive answer to everything, or the opposite, "science" is just a matter of opinion (like politics).

While the commonness of most of these misconceptions is independent of electronic media, the prevalence of electronic media (and the decline of books, libraries, etc) seems associated with students accepting whatever they read on there first google search.

I correct some of the misconceptions in the normal course of teaching biology (for example, when teaching about the diversity of life, I emphasize the positive ecological roles bacteria play in our guts).  I think activities that force students to investigate the validity of a website claim would be good, specifically contrasting the depth and accuracy of information they find from different sources.

I was just told a story by a medical practioner of a patient that lost his leg due to an infection he got when fishing.  A fish fin pierced his skin, and he read on the internet that the best way to treat these infections was to rub the fish against the wound.  He tried this approach, and then waited to long to try more conventional approaches.   Unfortunately this event is not published, so I can only tell students about it.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 12:53 PM ET by matthew carrigan.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

A few misconceptions that I hear in my classroom are 1. diet fads (paleo, juicing.etc) 2. plants do photosynthesis and animals do cell resp  and 3. basically everything having to do with evolution such as humans came from monkeys and that organisms can change to survive.  I think there are tv shows our there that foster these misconceptions, you have Dr. Oz always talking about weight loss and certain programs that portray evolution in a different light, I mean I even heard my students talking about the mermaid documentary this year. TO correct these misconceptions we take out time and hash them out. In Biology the one that we work on most is the evolution one, we do demos and draw cladograms to show evoltuionary history and descent with modification. I think it is going to become more of an uphill battle as social media and technology in general becomes a bigger part of young people's lives. 

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 4:34 PM ET by Nicole Karges.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I've seen a lot of diet fad misconceptions in A&P.  I can tell my students about the components of their cells and how the food they eat contributes to cell structure and function, but it is hard to get them to make the mental jump from "this is what my cells need" to "my diet should reflect what my cells need".  I have begun including questions that are mini-case studies of what happens to people on certain fad diets. Carbohydrate restriction and the resulting ketoacidosis were good topics during the urinary system.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:38 PM ET by Janice Fritz.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

One science misconception that i have observed among my students is whenever i give them a topic to present in the  classroom, they google the topic. They take diagrams and content from the google. The diagrams sometimes found to be wrong. I tell students to put diagrams from the textbooks rather than from google. I also tell students to look for content in journal articles rather from wikipedia.

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 8:57 PM ET by Manisha Bade.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

A common misconception I see is about certain foods being very bad (or very good) for you.

I think that electronic resources contribute to this, and many other, misconception by making false, misleading, or exaggerated claims very easy to find. When something is sensational, people look it up, people comment on it, people tell their friends to check it out. In an electronic format, this spreads far and wide very quickly.

A particular problem I see with misconceptions spread by social media is that this information goes from "friend" to "friend". This lends false claims more weight because they were posted by someone you trust, not unlike our activity reviewing websites for each other. Many of us visited new websites on the recommendation of fellow scholars. I think seeing a misconception posted on facebook by a friend makes people more likely to believe it than if they just saw it as a headline some where.

As a teacher, I find myself focusing on correcting individual misconceptions and advocating balance. I would like to move beyond hat to teaching students how to identify potential misconceptions and how to confirm the information.

 

This was posted on July 12, 2014 at 11:55 PM ET by Janice Fritz.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

One misconception is Darwin's Theory of Evolution.  Many students have come into my classes speaking of this theory as if it has been proven with good, hard science, when in fact it is just a theory.  I speak to the terminology and help them understand the difference between theories and fact, repeatedly proven scientific procedures and conjecture or ideas.  The electronic resources contribute to this misconception becauase it persists the fallacy of this theory being a scientific fact. 

How to solve this problem?  The story of the boy trying to save all the 1000's of starfish washed ashore comes to mind.  When asked, "Why bother?  It won't make much difference, there are just too many starfish to save."  The little boy replied, "It makes a difference to this one" (as he saves the one in his hands and continues to make a difference one by one.  I think the problem with social media and journalism is incredibly overwhelming, but we can make a difference one student at a time.  Teaching each student we encounter what true science looks like will make all the difference over time.  One person can change the world.  We as teachers can change the world for our students by modeling insightful, thoughtful, intelligent evaluation of sources and pass on to them these abilities that will make them fantastic scientists who know how to sift, digest and understand the multitudes of information they will face in the future.

This was posted on July 13, 2014 at 12:02 AM ET by Cathia Acton.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The biggest misconception is that students think anything they read is correct, whether it is digital or in print. There are mistakes in textbooks as well as in electronic media. There are some terrible science textbooks out there, particularly at the high school and grade school level, but also at the college level.

Fundamental, everything must be read with a critical eye and information must be corroborated.

Electronic media, because there is so much of it and because anyone can create and disseminate it, is very vulnerable to error. The errors are quickly propagated because electronic media are so easy to spread.

I encourage my students to looka to look at all sources critically and encourage them to use they skills they have been taught to evaluate sources.

This was posted on October 17, 2014 at 3:05 PM ET by Karen Groh.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Karen,

That is a great idea to teach the students critical thinking skill. Perhaps, more of essay and reports types of evaluation/assessment will encourage their critical thinking, and logic reasoning analytical/evaluation skills. Additionally, I would say it takes one's experience as well.  As they have more life experience, they will gain confidence and expertise in areas of study and will be getting more thoughtful and critical about the information they receive.

This was posted on October 21, 2014 at 7:51 AM ET by Danqing Xiao.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I think facebook especially fosters propagation of incorrects information, of any sort really. At first I would try to combat it whenever a friend posted incorrect information from a story, but it is so rampant that it seemes like a loosing battle.

This was posted on October 22, 2014 at 5:11 PM ET by Danielle Plomaritas.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

One recent misconception I have seen among my students is the thought that the ebola virus is an airborne disease that can be transmitted by inhaling the air than an infected person's coughed or sneezed into. I think this misconception first started when students saw how medical staff responded to the first infected American who got sent to the US for treatment (note: not first American diagnosed in the US). Putting that patient in a negative pressure room and taking precautions to isolate the patient as if they had an airborne disease was covered all over the news. There is also an internet meme that is kind of funny (and definitely inappropriate). It shows a man pointing a gun and the words say "Ebola got me like...cough again (insert swear word)". This meme has probably made its way through social media (a friend sent it to me), and I am sure whoever views it will take from it that if someone infected with ebola coughs, then everyone else around them is at risk of being infected. I can correct this misconception by exploring with the students what types of isolation procedures are used with ebola cases, as opposed to airborne diseases. I can also explain how ebola can be transmitted, and what precautions they can take to avoid it as well as what symptoms to look for if they may have come into contact with it.

This was posted on October 20, 2014 at 12:49 AM ET by Raks Derival.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

GREAT example!  Incorrect information on ebola is all over the place and creating a lot of fear.

This was posted on October 22, 2014 at 5:12 PM ET by Danielle Plomaritas.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

A very timely misconception.  My class will address this in more detail by giving presentations on diseases, including Ebola

This was posted on October 25, 2014 at 10:06 PM ET by Nicole Palenske.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I find my students using wikipedia for everything they want to know....if not they google it up.Electronic resources really contributes a lot to this science misconception.Its all because of its availability even on the smartphone...Access is immediate and a lot number of websites that explains or addresses a single word you give into the search engine.As a teacher i have asked my students to google topics that gives very overt explanations on things than the text  books and have discussed with them how important it  is to look into the texts rather into the internet.

This was posted on October 20, 2014 at 8:06 PM ET by GLAD MOHESH.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Perhaps also discriminate the results from google search, looking into whether the information is cited and cited from a reliable resource, for example, some of the google search result contain peer-reviewed academic journal article.

This was posted on October 21, 2014 at 7:43 AM ET by Danqing Xiao.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The one science misconception from my students is that lactic acid from anaerobic respiration causes muscle fatigue.

Perhaps the unreliable resource from blogs in the internet contribute to or facilitate this science misconception.

Encourage the students go for more reliable and updated resource including the textbook and academic journal articles from the Medline /PubMed search. As a teacher, we need to present the right information talking about the potential causes of muscle fatigue based on the above reliable resources.

This was posted on October 21, 2014 at 7:40 AM ET by Danqing Xiao.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Danquing, I agree. My students shun the vetted science links I provide for them on the web-based part of the course and use Google. While there is nothing wrong with using Google, it is a problem when they believe unreliable websites or information. It would be great if they would use bona fide good electronic resources like those you have presented. Other good sites are nih, who, and galileo.

This was posted on October 21, 2014 at 10:09 AM ET by Deborah Miller, D.C..
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

This is a really common misconception!  To be honest, until I started teaching respiration again I believed it myself.

This was posted on October 27, 2014 at 8:45 AM ET by Jennifer Trusty.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The science misconception that still has not died is the link between autism and vaccinations.

Electronic resources contribute to this misconception when they Google vaccines and autism and find many different sources (nonresearch based).

To correct this misconception when this comes up in class I explain the difference between correlation and cause & effect. I give the example of how Bob had a big physiology exam on Tuesday morning and stayed up to watch the World Series Monday night. The game went into extra innings and Bob started to study for his test after the game ended. He did poorly on his exam. Is the reason he did poorly was because the game was on or was the reason he did poorly because he did not study effectively? It was a correlation that his study time was during the game time. He did poorly on the exam (effect) because he did not study enough or effectively (cause). Children start showing signs of autism when they are 18 months to 3 years old. This is also a time when they are receiving many different vaccinations to protect them against diseases that killed many children 100 years ago. This is an example of correlation not cause and effect.

This was posted on October 22, 2014 at 7:48 PM ET by Patricia A. Halpin.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I think what you are currently doing is a good way to help students better understand correlation/cause and effect.  I think what needs to be done is tot each this ealier than college - in middle and high school.  As a high school teacher, I do try to focus on experimental design, but I think looking at a case study such as autism/vaccines might be something I will try this year, as hopefully the students have heard of it and will be interested in it.

This was posted on October 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM ET by Ashley Young.
Re: Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Go into the literature and read the 1998 paper by Wakefield that was retracted. He hand picked the study subjects. A modified version for students can be used to help them review the scientific method and how this design did  not follow the correct method. Research ethics and conflict of interest can be brought into the discussion as well.

This was posted on October 27, 2014 at 2:09 PM ET by Patricia A. Halpin.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

One misconception that my students have is that we must have oxygen in order to breathe.  It may have something to do with the way terms are used by scientists versus non-scientists. I try to determine the level of knowledge my students have of scientific terms and their meaning to scientists.   I have not seen anything about this in electronic resources so I don't think that is contributing to it.  What I try to do when discussing cellular respiration is repeat several times the role of oxygen in the Electron Transport Chain.  Some still don't get it and I would love your suggestions as to something else I can try.

This was posted on October 23, 2014 at 4:09 PM ET by Clay McCastlain.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I have found that there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding genetics.  One in particular is students think that every one of our cells has different DNA, when in reality, they all have a complete set of DNA, they just express different parts of it because each type of cell has a different function.  I don't think electronic resources necessarily contribute to this misconception - I think it just seems like a logical answer by students.  However, electronic resources can probably do a better job to help stop the misconception.  For example, in a texbook figure showing different kinds of cells, maybe the figure could also show a close-up of the DNA in the nucleus showing it is all the same, and maybe the genes that are turned on in each cell type could be highlighted.  As a teacher, I try to help correct this misconception when I teach mitosis by just explaining to students that every bit of our DNA is copied each time a cell divides.  I use what I think is a common analogy that DNA is like a cookbook, and genes are like the recipies in the book.  Each house has the entire cookbook, but different families use different recipies from it.

This was posted on October 25, 2014 at 12:07 PM ET by Ashley Young.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

I have observed this same misconception in my undergraduate classes!  I will incorporate your suggestions to see if that helps clear up this confusion about DNA.  So far, I have just tried to discuss is during lecture but a visual may help!

This was posted on October 27, 2014 at 8:43 AM ET by Jennifer Trusty.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Very good idea that a textbook or electronic resource can show the same DNA in each cell type (three examples). I taught a DNA extraction lab to an ESOL summer camp on English. A student gave me a comment that never would have occurred to me.She was disappointed at the opaque color of her DNA because all resources show the bases as different colors!! Has anyone else heard this?

This was posted on October 27, 2014 at 2:11 PM ET by Patricia A. Halpin.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

A common misconception my students have is that they think that the blood that runs through their veins is blue, because that is what they see through their skin.  I think electronic resources and texts contribute to this a little bit because of how we use red and blue to identify between a vein and artery.  I try to explain that its just the refraction through the skin and that all blood is really red, just different shades of red based on the oxygen content.  They seem surprised, but it does make sense to them in the end. 

This was posted on October 25, 2014 at 10:04 PM ET by Nicole Palenske.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Hi Nicole,

Thank you so much for sharing this misconception. I am suprised to hear this because I have never had a student tell me that this is what they think. By posting this misconception, you have reminded me (helped me) to again realize how little our A and P students know about their bodies. I tend to forget because I am entrenched in it all of the time.

 

This was posted on October 27, 2014 at 12:40 PM ET by Deborah Miller, D.C..
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

The most difficult misconception I have deals with the topic of evolution.  Many students have heard that scientists are trying to tell them that "Humans evolved from monkeys".  The truth is that we are related to monkeys (as we are related to flowers and bees) but we did not actually come from monkeys.  This is delicate misconception to discuss becuase of the religious implications as to who has more authority on this topic, their religious leader or their biology instructor?  I always discuss this misconception in the course but like many of the aspects of evolution, it is often a one sided debate as students are loathe to get caught in the middle.

I really do not think that digital resources are the main source of this misconception but it is frequently used in digital resources for religious or creationist organizations.

As a science instructor, I walk a thin line of teaching evolution and covering the complete material, from the fossil and morphological evidence to natural selection in bacteria.  I guess my goal is that if you overwhelm students with facts, they will put more weight on the evidence.  I never bring up religion or try to challenge religious beliefs.  That is a personal and moral choice.

This was posted on October 27, 2014 at 8:53 AM ET by Jennifer Trusty.
Re: Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

HI Jennifer I agree religion does not have to be part of the discussion. I will add to your discussion the concept of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. As microbes have short lifespans it is easier to see Evolution in action. Most students have heard of antibiotic resistance. Although they are unsure of any mechanism. That is what the real discovery of Darwin the mechanism of evolution.

This was posted on October 27, 2014 at 2:14 PM ET by Patricia A. Halpin.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

Here is a great infograph on 52 debunked myths such as chewing gum will stay in your stomach for 7 years http://io9.com/52-of-the-worlds-most-widespread-myths-and-misconceptio-1656550980 

This was posted on November 11, 2014 at 6:50 PM ET by Miranda Byse.
Re: Students' Science Misconceptions

There are times in life when you can crawl into a hole and hope the storm blows over.  Or you can stand proud and continue to experience everything life has to offer.  As you might imagine from my writings, I will always choose to experience what life has to offer.  Over the last few months I’ve dealt will a lot of fake daters.  But one thing that the controversy has done is refreshed my memory on screening dates.

 
This was posted on November 27, 2019 at 5:03 AM ET by Alla Pasons.