Misconceptions can also be seen as preconceived notions, non-scientific beliefs, naive theories, mixed conceptions, or conceptual misunderstandings. Basically, in science these are cases in which something a person knows and believes does not match what is known to be scientifically correct.
Most children who have science misconceptions are NOT aware that their ideas are incorrect. When they are simply told they are wrong, they often have a hard time giving up their misconceptions– especially if they have had a misconception for a long time.
How do they occur?
Often misconceptions can result in the following situations
1. Children creating knowledge based on incomplete evidence or their naive and intuitive understanding, e.g. ‘batteries contain electricity as they can power devices’ when batteries contain chemical potential energy which can be converted to electrical energy.
2. Children being taught misconceptions by their caregivers who have long-standing misconceptions e.g. ‘Be careful or you’ll be hurt by the steam coming out from the kettle. The steam is the white stuff coming out from the spout.’ Steam is the invisible vapor created with the conversion of boiling water into hot water vapour and the white stuff is the mist condensed by the steam losing heat to the surroundings.
3. Misconceptions might also occur as a difference between the scientific meaning of words and the general meaning of the word e.g. Hard (in English) solid and resistant to pressure & Hard (in Primary Science) resistance to scratches.
4. Misconceptions can also occur when in the confusion of concepts with similar measurements, E.g. Weight (measurement of the force of gravity acting on an object with grams and kilogrammes as the unit of measurement in Primary Science) and Mass (Measurement of the amount of matter in an object with grams and kilogrammes as the unit of measurement in Primary Science)
5. Misconceptions can occur when there are similar concepts with different theories, E.g. Many children are confused with gravitational potential energy, which is the energy gained by an object as its height above ground level increases, and gravitational force, which is the force of attraction on objects based on their mass.
Why should we worry about Science misconceptions?
What is especially concerning about science misconceptions is that children will continue to build knowledge based on their current understandings. Hence, possessing misconceptions can have serious impacts on their learning. Thus, we need to uncover our children’s misconceptions and correct them before there is any long-lasting impact on their learning.