Where do misconceptions come from?
- There must be some dissatisfaction with the student’s current understanding. Students are unlikely to be aware of these, and it therefore falls to us to make them purposefully aware of the ones they hold. This can be difficult, as theories” work for them perfectly well in their everyday lives, and we have to tutor students to become critical of their own thinking.
- The new conception must be intelligible or understandable to learners. This is where our skill in representing ideas specifically tailored to the learning needs of the students in front of us comes to the fore. Our assessment practices need to allow the students (and teachers) to see that they are ‘getting it’.
- The new conception must appear initially plausible; it must seem to be a better possible answer than the misconception. Keeping our instruction ‘real’, rooted in what is known (i.e. their prior knowledge), making connections clear and using concrete examples all help students to alter their understanding of things.
- Finally, the new conception should suggest the possibility being fruitful or useful to them as learners. We can do this by helping students transfer their new understanding and applying it to new examples.