Lab: Core misconceptions

Secondary School Science Teaching Methods

Adam Johnston & Sharon Ohlhorst

DUE: Wednesday, November 3rd

In previous work, you have both investigated the state core curriculum and alternative conceptions that students are likely to hold.  For this lab, you will help the class to compile a database of information that cross references each core objective with the typical misconception(s) that could inhibit the learning of that objective.

Specifically, do the following:

·         Team up with some colleagues (2-3 in a group) with whom you can work.  You should be interested in roughly the same grade level and subject.

·         Identify one or two standards within a core curriculum of interest.  Ideally, find two standards from different cores that have some overlap.  (For example, the 7th grade integrated science core and the Biology core, although different, do “spiral” through the same concepts.)  You will research the objectives within these standards.

·         For each objective in each standard, identify the following:

o        What typical misconception could students have that will impede their learning of this objective?  (This should be one or two sentences.)

o        What references will inform someone else about these misconceptions?  Include an exact webpage with the date you last referenced it and/or a piece of literature with full citation, including page number if appropriate.

·         Turn in a copy of your standard and objectives with the above annotations in electronic form.  This could be in MS Word, WordPerfect, html, or some other easily readable format.  You may email this to or bring in a disk or let us borrow your USB drive or hand deliver the individual electrons in proper format.  (Good luck with the latter of these.) 

Why do we want you to do this?  Because it’s good for you and it will be good for the rest of the world.  You are contributing to a database that we will organize and then post to the website for you and others to refer to.  Thus, the electronic form of this assignment is essential for compiling this database.

Some resources that you could refer to might include the following:

q       Utah State Office of Education Science Curricula:

q       A database such as
(This looks promising, though it is untested.)

q       Websites such as

q       A search through the databases and stacks of Stewart Library (

q       Look at the many databases of articles available via the library:
(Hint: One place to start would be under the “social and behavioral” databases, and then scrolling to the education databases.)

q       Stewart Library’s electronic journals in science and science education:
(The journals Journal for Research in Science Teaching and Science Education may be good places to browse through for ideas.)

q       Page through texts (e.g., the Driver et al. text on misconceptions) and journals (many of which are lying around the classroom, in the CSME, or in Adam Johnston's office), paying attention to the citations within these.