Boston Latin School Middle School Science Fair was redesigned this year using GId. The Learning Team found some great benefits to doing so. One was that the teachers saw students misconceptions being addressed like never before.
Students come to us with their own experiences and mental models of how things work. Sometimes their preconceived notions are incorrect. These are called misconceptions. In order to build scientific knowledge, students have to be open to changing their mind. That’s one big reason why inquiry based learning is such a great platform or methodology for learning about/from science. If you want to learn more about misconceptions in science, one place to start is the school of education Science Professors at UCal Berkeley created this website from a grant back in 2010. And on this page they list many common misconceptions in understanding science
At Boston Latin School, by designing the unit using the Guided Inquiry Design process and beginning with personal observations, the teachers uncovered student misconceptions early in the process.
When we are hoping to change misconceptions and change people’s minds through learning, a canned curriculum will not likely get us there. It was through listening to students, understanding their perspective, questioning and wondering with them, pushing them to find out more and work through new information that students misconceptions were addressed through this unit.
Listen to Science Teacher Kelly Bagdonas talk about it here.
In the video, Kelly describes this one interaction with a student. She knows the student is wrong in their thinking, but instead of saying- “No, that’s not right!” she takes an inquiry stance and instead says “Well, what makes you think that?” And the student responds with an honest, “I’ve actually never thought about it.” Kelly recognized that “there was something here,” meaning this is a great nugget of information a place where this student has an interest and yet also a misconception. This is a great opportunity for real learning!
Often times science teachers feel the need to be that subject matter expert at all times, but in this case, Kelly recognized the value of talking and listening and having an inquiry stance. Because she did that, this student moved through the inquiry process about his idea, and changed his mind. What a great lesson for us all about how to approach our students misconceptions with co-wonder, and opening space and time for them to read, reflect, talk to peers and find out more. Through his process he was able to construct new understandings. He needed nudging and permission to dig, for himself. Most kids would want you to just tell them “the answer”, but Kelly opened the path for him to discover on his own, he had to work for it, and he was motivated to know more, so when he dug, it made for lasting learning.
If there weren’t already enough reasons to try GId in your science class, this one is a biggie, opening the space for students to address their interests and misconceptions about science and how things work.
Until next time!