A recent study shows that if teachers know the likely misconceptions that their students have about a topic, those students will show greater gains than if the teacher just knows the accurate science involved. This makes a very strong case for assessing students to see what misconceptions they may have about each upcoming general topic.
In order to get an untainted insight into any misconceptions about the nature of science that your students may have, you may want to administer a short pre-test within the first day or so of the course. So, after (or before, if you prefer) your dramatic opening (Click Here and scroll down to "The First Days), plan to insert your pre-test (Science Knowledge Survey) in some 15-20 minute time slot as early as you can.
To see our "Science Knowledge Survey" (as an example), just scroll down to the bottom of this page. It's also available in PDF format, ready-to-use. Be sure to remove the "KEY" from the master copy before making your classroom set! If you decide to give this as a pre- and post-test, use the handy Pre-Post Test Analyzer to show how much your students' understanding of the NOS changes by going through your unit - it makes a good analysis of how you present the unit. See Post-Test paragraph below.
CAUTION PRESENTING MISCONCEPTIONS:
1. First, present the Core Fact in a headline (with no mention of the related myth).
Cook, J., and S. Lewandowsky. 2011. The Debunking Handbook. St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland. November 5. ISBN 978-0-646-56812-6. www.skepticalscience.com/Debunking-Handbook-now-freely-available-download.html
OPTIONS FOR SURVEY FOLLOW-UP:
At some point in the Survey follow-up, you may be asked why certain items are considered correct - or not. To anticipate this, consult the Science Survey Discussion pages (3 pages in PDF format) prepared to clarify why each item is correct - or not - as currently understood by working scientists. By the way, notice that this qualifier is used in the directions to the student taking the Survey, primarily to focus attention on whether a statement actually fits modern science - or not, and to discourage the more casual attitude that this is merely an opinion survey. NOTICE: Before giving the survey, it may be helpful for you to read these discussion items in order to be prepared for questions that may arise during or after the survey.
HOWEVER, based on the information in the Debunking Handbook (above), I recommend that you NOT make any effort to respond to questions about the Survey itmes. If questions arise, just tell them that they will be doing some lessons over the next few weeks in which they will discover for themselves just what science IS and is NOT, and they might be surprised by what they learn, or they might not!
Another useful source of information on the misconceptions about science is the Understanding Science website, operated by the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP). Each misconception is clickable to a specific explanation. There are also links to Teaching Tools and Tips & Strategies (in the right panel).
1. My favorite approach to sharing results of the Science Survey with my students was to do an item analysis (if your machine scoring machine allows it) and simply use the item analysis results to point out to the class how many missed each of of the 5-8 most-missed items (without identifying which items they were). Emphasize that "there clearly are many who have been misinformed, or who have misunderstood the nature of science. This is true of the general population. Therefore my main job is to help you to repair your misconceptions. We will do that with the series of lessons that we will be doing over the next few weeks." Do not tell any students how many items they missed. Say that "you'll figure that out if you pay close attention while we do these lessons." Then, following each selected lesson, where appropriate, follow the Debunking Handbook steps for each misconception that was missed by at least a majority of the students (and others, too, if you like).
OLDER (NOT RECOMMENDED) WAYS TO FOLLOW-UP:
2. In the past, I used the high missing-rates as a rationale for the need to take a look at What Science is NOT. Then proceed into the several NOS lessons that present and reinforce what science IS, using the steps in the Debunking Handbook wherever you can. Now, if I used the What Science is NOT at all, I'd save it until just before your unit test.
3. After students have completed the survey individually, they could gather into small groups to compare their answers and discuss differences. This could lead to clarification, or some frustrations begging the need for clarification. After groups have each gathered a few (or several) items to discuss further in class, hold a guided class discussion, with each group sharing out an item or two of contention in turn, for discussion by the class. Be prepared to step in for clarifications, or to point out that "we will be exploring this item in some activities to follow." Take note of the items selected for class discussion, especially if there is no clear class agreement with the appropriate scientific understanding of the item. Be sure to select lessons from the ENSI collection that effectively address those issues during your unit.
4. You could make an overhead listing each numbered item, revealing it as you proceed with your comments and brief discussion. Then look at What Science IS .
From this point, you should provide your students with a variety of experiences that illustrate the true nature of science. To do this, use a fair sampling of the NOS lessonsin the ENSI collection, all designed and selected to clarify concepts and repair the main misconceptions about real science. Whenever you can, try to present each misconception in the way recommended by the Debunking Handbook.
For helpful tables showing how each ENSI lesson meets the expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), see the Nature of Science Overview & Standards Index.
SUGGESTION: You might consider surveying your students before each topic/unit (or selected topic units) on what you consider to be some of the more common misconceptions about that topic, as well as any basic and critical factoids that you consider fundamental knowledge about that topic. We offer such a survey that you could use before your Evolution unit. We all acquire misconceptions throughout our lives, and the sooner they can be discovered and repaired, the more accurate will be our world view going forward on which to build, and the less likely we will be to pass along those misconceptions to others. Once we have a deep-seated misconception, it's very hard to remove... But the first step is to be convinced that we have that misconception. Then we can learn why the more accurate view works better, and add that to our knowledge bank.
FEEDBACK: As with all postings on this site, if you have questions, problems, suggestions or experiences to share about our Science Knowledge Survey, please email the webmaster.
This survey is given to check your understanding about the nature of modern science and certain basic science concepts. Please agree, or disagree, with each item on your answer sheet as you think a working scientist would. When done, please turn this survey AND your answer sheet face down on your desk.
USE YOUR SPECIAL ANSWER SHEET
1. Science is primarily a search for truth.