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Re: [Phys-l] Student Misconceptions

One reason for being chained to misconceptions is that our methods of
teaching have been dogmatic. Some people manage to escape from it, but
never completely. According to the cog sci articles I have read, being
chained to our paradigms is embedded in our psyches. We are very resistant
to change, and when confounding evidence comes along, we automatically
ignore it, or even simply don't recognize it. The school system has
strengthened that tendency. Scientists often do not have it as strongly in
their field, but outside their field they think exactly like the general
public. I have noted that non scientists who are trained technicians are
more prey to illogical paradigms. This happens in engineers and medical
doctors. For example the most vociferous anti-evolutionist on the TX board
of education was a dentist. These people are trained extremely
dogmatically. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of logical
technicians, but dogmatic training probably increases the tendency to buy
into illogical positions. An example here is a father who contacted us and
said we were teaching torque wrong. It turns out that he objected to the
standard physics terminology which differs from that in engineering courses.
Neither of us was wrong, but we sent him back a nice letter detailing that
our terminology was standard in the text book. He had a rigid paradigm.

The extreme form of this is in persons who are obsessive compulsive (OCD).
But this is merely an extreme form of a natural tendency in all of our
psyches. Phobias happen because of the natural tendency to form strong
paradigms based on skimpy evidence. My son slept on his stomach and the
buttons on his PJs hurt him, so he developed a button phobia. Some short
term cognitive therapy helped, but I know other people with button phobias.
Your embedded paradigms can overcome your rational concious thought.

It turns out that Swartz has shown how training by the usual lecture
dogmatic method, produces rigid experts. But the opposite of all
exploration can produce experts, but annoying experts who flit from one
thing to another. The best way of educating people is to have exploration
first and let them come up with ideas before teaching fixed algorithms.

I doubt that the level of misconceptions is different in most other
countries. Most peole form misconceptions through natural observation which
is then reinforced by teachers. Sometimes teachers give wrong information,
but often they just give the correct information. But the students don't
believe the correct information, so they file it away as a memorized test
item. Changing the student paradigm requires a learning cycle approach, and
that is not being done in more than a small fraction of schools at the
present time.

I am not sure this is what BC wanted bitten, but this is my bite for the
query. Which reminds me of a cute Burns and Allen skit. George asked
Gracie what she did that day. She said she met with a producer and he
invited her out for a bite. George as the good straight man asked what she
did then. She replied that she didn't have time to go out so she bit him

John M. Clement
Houston, TX

Again no one bites. Why? Is it because the answer is so
obvious, no one wants to reveal their ignorance, or .....

Any way my answer, after a bit of work, is perhaps counter intuitive.

Please, someone, bite.


p.s. I asked this at an AAPT section meting w/ no result either.

On 2011, Sep 28, , at 18:21, Bernard Cleyet wrote:

On 2011, Sep 28, , at 15:49, Dr Holly Priestley wrote:

For the most part the elementary people (whether teaching
or not) have more
misconceptions then they do correct knowledge. Add to
that urban legend
beliefs and cultural beliefs (i.e. have to walk back over
a baby so you
don't stunt its growth) and you have a pitiful bit of
actual understanding
of science processes and information.

How about Ph.D.s' misconceptions. I had one. I queried
the list and received NO response, so I'll try again.