Improving student learning by addressing misconceptions



Students—and often those who teach them—come to class with preconceptions and misconceptions that hinder their learning. For instance, many K–12 students and teachers believe groundwater exists in the ground in actual rivers or lakes, but in fact, groundwater is found in permeable rock layers called aquifers. Such misconceptions need to be addressed before students can learn scientific concepts correctly. While other science disciplines have been addressing preconceptions and misconceptions for many years, the geoscience community has only recently begun to concentrate on the impact these have on students' learning. Valuable research is being done that illuminates how geologic thinking evolves from the “novice” to “expert” level. The expert is defined as an individual with deep understanding of Earth science concepts. As research progresses, geoscientists are realizing that correcting preconceptions and misconceptions can move teachers and students closer to the “expert” level [Libarkin, 2005].