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The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.
Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. Richard Feynman

Source: Cargo Cult Science - from a Caltech commencement address given in 1974

Video 1. Why do students get the basics so wrong?

And if you have any doubt about Harvard graduates and their scientific misconceptions

Why 21st Century Learning Should Bring Rigour To Science Education:

Research around the world indicates that at the end of their schooling, large numbers of students still hold many ideas, or conceptions, which are not in accord with the way that scientists understand our world.

These scientifically incorrect conceptions have been given numerous names, such as, misconceptions, preconceptions, naïve conceptions, alternative conceptions and alternative frameworks. The UK literature tends to use ‘scientific misconceptions’ whereas literature from elsewhere (e.g. Australia, USA) uses the term ‘alternative conceptions’.

Many of the children’s ideas and misconceptions make sense. They are logical interpretations of the information the children currently have. Indeed these misconceptions make more sense than the scientific view, which is counter, intuitive. Source: UWE Bristol 2003

  Published in:The Physics Teacher, Vol.30, March 1992, 141-158:
  It has been established that common-sense beliefs about science are incompatible
  with scientific explanation and that conventional education produces little
  change in these beliefs.

  The implications could not be more serious: Since the students have evidently
  not learned the most basic concepts, they must have failed to comprehend most
  of the material in the course.

  Instead, they have been forced to cope with the subject by rote memorization
  of isolated fragments and by carrying out meaningless tasks.
  No wonder so many are repelled!

  The few who are successful have become so by their own devices, the course and
  the teacher having supplied only the opportunity and perhaps inspiration.

  Source: http://modeling.asu.edu/R&E/FCI.PDF

More than 200 authoritative references to misconceptions in primary school students:


Video 2. How to teach science - It's more about effort than knowledge!

Science, medicine, technology and the world order has changed dramatically over the last one hundred years. Education, not so much:

Most teachers teach the same things today as those taught to them when they were at school.

It is no coincidence that most tertiary students (who will be the teachers of tomorrow), also get this stuff wrong. To make matters worse, many teachers and students are very confident that their understanding of these concepts is correct - despite them being demonstrably wrong. According to Wikipedia, this is known as The Dunning Kruger Effect, and according to John Cleese.

The main finding of my thesis research is that multimedia which involves explicit discussion of alternative conceptions is more effective for learning than more concise expository summaries.

This was demonstrated three times in two different areas of physics with students with different levels of prior knowledge.

  So what's the big deal? Many people have known Newton's first law(1) since eighth
  grade (or earlier).

  And if prompted with the first few words, most people could probably recite
  the law word for word. And what is so terribly difficult about remembering that
  F = ma? It seems to be a simple algebraic statement for solving story problems.

  The big deal however is not the ability to recite the first law nor to use the
  second law to solve problems; but rather the ability to understand their
  meaning and to believe their implications.

  While most people know what Newton's laws say, many people do not know what
  they mean (or simply do not believe what they mean). Source(2) 

Video 2. Memorising Versus Understanding


What We Can Do To Correct This:

Ensure that we teach scientific concepts that stand up to the tests of currency and accuracy.

Ensure that students have access to the best current, authoritative information and are given the tools and motivation to discover, understand and test the veracity of those principles for themselves.

Please consider the information and links provided in this wiki as a starting point.

The Scientific Method:

Scientific Method - A Flow Chart

The scientific method is one particular way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments. Some people argue that there is no such thing as 'The Scientific Method' - make up your own mind:

The steps of the scientific method are to:

No matter what your method is, it is important for your experiment to be a fair test:

A fair test means that you should set up your experiment so that everything is fair.

  • You should only change one thing at a time, and note down the results.
  • If you change more than one thing at a time, you can not tell which thing (variable) it was that affected the results.

Lots of video teaching resources for teaching science, from Harvard here. Many are a bit dated but as useful as ever.

teaching/how-to-teach-science/home.txt · Last modified: 23/03/2017/ 19:39 by