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Community Forums - LifeSciTRC Scholars and Fellows - Science misconceptions in my class

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Most of the misconceptions I have encountered are "science urban legends" such as "bananas prevent muscle cramps" and "lactic acid causes muscle fatigue".   These are not the fault of electronic resources as much as simple word of mouth.  When I ask students how they know these items are fact, I get "because they say it's true!"  While these are common misconceptions, they work very well for me to get students involved in evaluating what they hear.  For example, I ask students to find research that demonstrates consuming bananas relieves or reduces muscle cramps.  They will sometime find internet resources stating it's true, but no research is given.  We then get into primary vs secondary sources of information and discuss peer-review.  Luckily, just a few years ago, an Australian university actually did a very well-controlled student for the first time on this question and resulsts did not support the legend.  

To address the lactic acid myth, I was able to get blood lactate monitors and I had students devise an exercise protocol by looking up research on lactic acid and fatigue and design their own experiement.  Most of them come up with sprint or cycling exercise where one treatment has longer rest cycles than another.  To the surprise of the students, the people with the longer rest periods have higher blood lactate levels than the shorter rests and the shorter rests have lower performance and work output even though their lactate levels are lower.  This usually sparks more questions from students and this leads to an increasead desire on their part to learn why this is happening.  

I know this post should address misconceptions we have and seek solutions, maybe this may provide some ideas to you on how to address your own students misconceptions.  I know one thing.....misconcpetions provide some of the best class experiences I could ever want!

This thread was posted on May 31, 2016 at 9:37 PM ET by Michael Lyons.
  |   1 Reply   |   Last on 5/31/2016 at 11:02 PM ET
Re: Science misconceptions in my class

I agree urban legends contribute to so much of the misconceptions students have, I like the students to research to try and prove to me its valid.  I tell them they have to find scientific resources to support the legend and see if they can prove it to be true.  9 chances out of ten they cannot find a valid reliable resource to back up their claim.  

This was posted on May 31, 2016 at 11:02 PM ET by Catina Stecz.