Saturday, April 28, 2012

Uncovering Alternative Conceptions

Welcome to my classroom!  I'm writing this blog for two reasons.  First, it's for myself.  For the past two weeks I've begun taking a Constructivist approach to my classroom.  Already, I'm amazed and challenged by what has been happening with my students.  This blog is going to be a journal of sorts for me.  I will be writing about what I'm doing in the classroom frankly so I can remember and revise from year to year.  The second reason is to possibly get a conversation started about this Constructivist approach and inquiry biology in the classroom.  I'm hopeful that others may share suggestions and ideas regarding what is working in their classrooms.

A little about me.  I've been a middle school math & science teacher for about 13 years.  Most of that time I've been what might be called a stand and deliver teacher.  I give the students the content outlined in the standards and expect them to learn it.  But I'm finding this approach has not been giving me the results I want.

I assumed that students were clean slates and that if I gave them information that was clear and interesting, they would learn it.  What I'm finding now is that students come to me with  misconceptions or what some educators call alternative conceptions.  A book I'm reading called Questions, Claims Evidence, The Important Place of Argument in Children's Science Writing by Lori Norton Meier and others explains this well.  It says we store knowledge in a conceptual framework which is an interconnected web of knowledge built around a concept.  When we learn something new, we try to fit it into the framework.  If our framework is based on a misconception, that presents a problem.  Students will take the new information and try to fit it to their misconceptions.

I began to see this more clearly when I watched a video workshop series called the Private Universe Project.  You can find it here:
I'd be interested in feedback on what others think of this series.

My next post will be about my first attempt at challenging student misconceptions.  Stay tuned!  ;)

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