What are they and how do they occur?
Students used to be viewed as empty vessels, just waiting to be filled to the brim with knowledge. However it is now generally accepted that this does not occur and that knowledge is actively constructed and the learner has an active role in that knowledge construction. An interchange between pre-existing knowledge and new knowledge occurs and it is during this interaction that misconceptions can be generated.
Misconceptions are commonly known as alternative explanations that some students and adults have to explain scientific phenomena. There are a variety of terms used in the research literature to describe pupils views of topics that are different to the scientifically accepted theories. These terms include conceptual frameworks, alternative frameworks, misconceptions and minitheories (Duit 1991) and they all have different meanings. The term misconceptions is used by the authors of the KS3 science strategy, is misleading as to the students their conceptions of natural phenomena helps them to explain their world, so to them they are not misconceptions, they are only misconceptions to the scientific community. The term alternative framework as used by Driver and Easley, gives credence to the pupils own views as frameworks that enable them to make sense of the world (Duit 1991).
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