To use this strategy, the teacher gives a common misconception about a topic, and students explain why they agree or disagree with it. According to constructivism, students interpret new learning through the lens of previously developed beliefs and ideas about the world. These preconceived ideas could be misinterpretations of generally accepted explanations for a phenomenon, which can cause difficulty and frustration when students are learning something that conflicts with what they already believe. It is thus very important for the teacher to identify misconceptions and address them directly through classroom activities. This ensures that students will more readily accommodate new concepts that are being taught, especially in science education.
I usually used this strategy during whole-group discussions with grade sixes. I would ask a leading question based on a common misconception identified during formative assessment, and challenge the students to explain whether they agreed or disagreed. For example, during math and science discussions, questions could be something like:
- Can we use a bar graph to represent this weather data?
- When using partial products multiplication, is each partial product a separate answer?
- If the switch is open, is our circuit still a closed circuit?
- Are the colours of the wires important for our circuit to function?
Each question was developed based on observation, anecdotal notes or formative assessment that revealed a common misconception held by many students in the class. By posing the question and having a class discussion about the right answer, students were able to correct their understanding in a collaborative environment. This straight-forward approach led to many productive discussions!
Edutopia. (Sept.14 2015). 10 Fun-Filled Formative Assessment Ideas.
Tippett C. “Constructivism and Science Teaching.” (PED 3131 Course Notes).