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Re: [Phys-l] Student Misconceptions

Actually this is not true. Research has shown that refutational text which
explicitly refutes misconceptions does work somewhat. There is other
research which shows that if you show a video of peers discussing and
refuting a misconception it also works. So explicit discussion of a
misconception might have some benefit. But having the students do the
discussion does work much better as Mazur has shown.

As to teaching the correct concept, that alone does not work. The
misconception is there dormant and it comes out later. To change a
student's conceptions they have to first bring up the ideas they already
have and then see the correct conception. This is exactly what is done in
the ILDs. Students have to reconsolidate their ideas to actually remove the
incorrect conceptions. Notice the ILDs do not rely on knowing the
misconceptions, but rather on having the students bring them up themselves,
so each student gets a slightly different treatment.

The problem is that students will memorize the correct conception, but it
will then be particularized to the classroom situation in which it was

But if the whole learning situation is one of lecture, ie professor
explaining, misconceptions generally do not go away, but there is little
evidence that they are reinforced. They just are there ready to bite the
students when they are tested. The light shines in the darkness, and the
students do not see it unless they believe it.

John M. Clement
Houston, TX

3) It is OK to talk about this-or-that misconception in
this forum, but talking about misconceptions in front
of students is at least as likely to reinforce the
misconception as to dispel it.

4) As a consequence of the above, the best policy, with
isolated exceptions, is to teach the correct concepts
and move on. "The light shines in the darkness, and
the darkness cannot overcome it."