EEF blog: Planning to address scientific misconceptions

Secondary science teacher Dr Niki Kaiser introduces our new 'Voices from the Classroom' video and case study infographics, which illustrate how teachers are working to anticipate and tackle their pupils' misconceptions. 

Science teachers have access to an array of helpful teaching resources. As a Science teacher, I can draw upon resources developed by national organisations and academic projects, such as the RSC and BEST, or by more informal groups, such as CogSciSci, and by individual teachers opening sharing their tools.

But every teacher will know that a resource on its own is not enough. Indeed, having access to multiple resources can actually make things feel harder sometimes. Anyone who has desperately scrolled through a department’s shared drive looking for the ‘perfect resource’ for an upcoming lesson will be able to tell you this.

We know that planning around misconceptions is a powerful way to ensure our teaching builds on our pupils’ understanding, and help them make links across the curriculum. But the challenge for a busy teacher is to find ways to embed this approach into their everyday practice.

We’ve previously shared examples of teachers and leaders building a collaborative culture of addressing misconceptions and integrating diagnostic questions into departmental schemes of work. We’ve also released resources to get people talking about misconceptions and to support curriculum planning.

But we know that schools listen to schools and teachers listen to teachers. Happily, colleagues have been generous in sharing ideas for how to implement effective approaches in the classroom. Over the past year, teachers have shared how they plan around misconceptions, and how they use our curriculum framework to help with departmental planning and support trainee teachers.

In our latest Voices from the Classroom video, Holly Walsh – a Science teacher and Research Lead at Meols Cop School, in Southport – talks about her department’s approach to addressing misconceptions. She gives practical strategies for addressing misconceptions and reviewing understanding, all underpinned by collaboration between colleagues.

'Voices from the Classroom' - Addressing scientific misconceptions

In our new set of How I teach… Case Studies, teachers share their ideas for how to teach specific topics, taking common misconceptions into account. Carole Kenrick describes how they teach about forces, using a range of examples that help pupils to apply tricky concepts in different contexts. Jo Castellino talks about how she teaches about enzymes, uncovering the misconceptions pupils hold, and encouraging them to articulate their understanding. Finally, Karen Collins and Amanda Clegg outline some common misconceptions in maths, and suggest how we can support pupils to overcome them in practical Science topics.