Science Teachers Hindered by Student Misconceptions
— Scientific misconceptions among students are a significant barrier to learning —
— Misconceptions are developed early, are deeply ingrained and difficult to dislodge —
— Teachers have insufficient tools to support independent learning —
London, 28 October 2011
- Deeply-held scientific misunderstandings among students are slowing down lessons, as teachers are forced to re-teach topics and untangle erroneous ideas, research reveals.
- The report, released by Encyclopædia Britannica, examined secondary school science teachers’ attitudes to barriers to learning in Physics, Chemistry and Biology and what can be done to address them.
- Nearly a third of science teachers (29 per cent) say that student misconceptions are the biggest barrier to learning currently faced in the classroom, as they take time to disprove via traditional learning methods, are difficult to correct and prevent students from grasping more complex ideas.
- But despite these concerns, the majority of science teachers (75 per cent) believe that most students learn best by researching scientific theories for themselves, while more than a quarter (27 per cent) believe this is the only way that misconceptions can be overcome.
- However, more than two thirds (68 per cent) of science teachers believe that they have insufficient tools to support their students to work independently, while just over half are concerned that there is not enough lesson time to address misconceptions.
- To help teachers overcome their pupils’ misconceptions, Encyclopædia Britannica has developed Britannica Pathways: Science, an online teaching resource designed to help teachers clarify difficult scientific concepts for their pupils and support independent learning, while providing immediate access to reliable and accurate information and saving teachers’ time.
- Professor Sir Harold Kroto who won the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and is supporting Pathways said: “In this day and age when massive technical and sustainability issues appear to threaten the survival of the human race all attempts to help improve the general level of SET education are vitally important and this Britannica Pathways initiative is a most innovative effort to help teachers to achieve this end. After all, although knowledge cannot guarantee good decisions, common sense suggests that wisdom is an unlikely consequence of ignorance.”
- Developed for teaching at Key Stage 3, Britannica Pathways: Science helps teachers improve their students’ knowledge of core areas of science. The resource encourages the development of many key skills, including critical thinking, discussion, research and evaluation, through interactive classroom activities and teacher-led discussions. Students are also encouraged to examine evidence and test hypotheses through curriculum-relevant ideas and activities.
- Caroline Kennard, Director of Education at Encyclopædia Britannica, said: “With new Science GCSEs likely to be introduced into the curriculum in the near future which place a greater emphasis on knowledge acquisition, it is more important than ever that students are taught about the nature of critical inquiry, how to think independently and the importance of accurate information when conducting research.”
- “Britannica Pathways: Science offers a new approach to help students understand core areas of science which they have traditionally found to be the most difficult and helps teachers to clarify and overcome some of the common misconceptions held by their students.”
- Britannica will be showcasing the new resource at BETT Middle East 2011 in October.
- The top 10 areas with which students have most difficulty, as revealed by science teachers, are:
- Forces and relative motion
- Electrical currents and how electricity moves
- The differences between respiration and breathing
- Atomic theory
- Plant food consumption
- Gravity in space
- The effect of heat on particles
- The difference between weight and mass
- Classification of living organisms
- Human reproduction
Notes to editors:
- About the research:
Research was carried out by Encyclopædia Britannica via the Schoolzone network, among secondary school Science teachers in the UK, in May 2011.
- About Encyclopædia Britannica:
Britannica was founded in Edinburgh in 1768 at the height of the period of European history known as the “Enlightenment”. Its aim was to publish clear, current and correct information, based on a scientific approach to knowledge.
- It is the most comprehensive and oldest continuously published reference work in the English language and is revered worldwide for its editorial integrity. Britannica strives to help its users become confident global citizens, by delivering expert and up-to-date knowledge and being global leaders in providing a source for life-long learning.
- Encyclopædia Britannica (UK) Ltd is a subsidiary of Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. who are leading providers of learning and knowledge products. Britannica is proud to be one of the world's most trusted sources of information.
- In 2011 Encyclopædia Britannica was named as one of the UK’s most respected brands in the annual Consumer Superbrand Survey. Britannica was one of only eight media reference companies to make the top 500 brands in the UK and was the only one to be listed in the top 50.
- About Britannica Online & Mobile:
Today Encyclopædia Britannica has a larger and more diverse line of online and mobile products than ever before. Our outlook is shaped by our tradition of excellence and an understanding of what knowledge seekers need in the digital age.
- Britannica's most comprehensive online product is Britannica Online Academic Edition, which delivers relevant, web-based content for further and higher education. It is continuously updated, revised and developed with new articles, allowing its users to research confidently with expert information and a host of research tools designed to support advanced study.
- Beyond the Online Academic Edition, Britannica continues to develop an extensive range of online products aimed at all levels of the curriculum.
- In 2002 Britannica introduced Britannica Online School Edition, a comprehensive reference and education service specially designed for primary and secondary schools. It has undergone several significant upgrades in the years since. Aspects of the product are available on the Guardian’s Teacher Resources site
- In 2006 Britannica introduced Britannica Online Public Library Edition, delivering three products in one, including separate home pages for adults, students, and children. The product allows libraries to tailor the product to their patrons' needs.
- In 2011 Britannica launched six titles in a series of educational mobile applications for children. The Ancient Romans, Ancient Egypt, Solar System, Volcanoes, Rainforests and Dinosaurs apps will be followed by a further 60 project-based programmes later in the year.
- Image Quest was launched in January 2011 to provide one million digital images to universities, colleges and schools. Fully rights-cleared for educational use, Image Quest brings together collections from the National Geographic, Getty Images, and Oxford Scientific and many others, into an easy-to-use online portal.
- For further information about Britannica and its products, please visit:
Follow Britannica on Twitter: @Britannica_UK
Britannica Flickr Feed: www.flickr.com/photos/britannica_image_quest/
# # #
For further information, please contact:
DDI: +44 (0)20 7500 7805
Fax: +44 (0)20 7500 7878