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Influenced by Piagetian and Vygotskian research, science educators in the 1970s started to pay attention to students’ ideas in science. They discovered that students had deeply held beliefs that were in conflict with scientific concepts and theories. In addition to misconceptions, other terms such as preconceptions, alternative frameworks, and intuitive beliefs or theories have been used to characterize these ideas. One of the first interpretations of misconceptions is that they are faulty intuitive theories, which must be replaced by the scientifically correct ones. Another dominant interpretation is that they represent category errors—concepts assigned to the wrong ontological category. Both of these views proposed that refutation and cognitive conflict are instructional strategies that can be used to extinguish misconceptions. A different approach to misconceptions is expressed by researchers who argue that misconceptions have their roots in productive knowledge elements. According to this view, misconceptions are productive in some contexts but not appropriate in others and in these latter cases more carefully articulated scientific knowledge is necessary. Yet other researchers argue that misconceptions are often hybrids—constructive attempts on the part of the students to synthesize scientific information with intuitive beliefs and theories. Recent research has shown that misconceptions are not supplanted by scientific theories but coexist with them even in expert scientists. As a result, attention in science instruction has shifted from attempts to extinguish misconceptions to attempts to strengthen students’ epistemic knowledge, and their model building, hypothesis testing, and reasoning skills. Cognitive conflict and refutation continue to be important instructional strategies not for extinguishing misconceptions but for creating awareness in students that their beliefs are not accurate from a scientific point of view. Overall, the discovery of misconceptions has had a tremendous influence in science education research and teaching because it demonstrated that students are active and creative participants in the learning process and that their ideas and understandings need to be taken into account in instruction.

Article

As more linguistically diverse students populate classrooms around the world including the United States, providing them with equitable and rigorous learning experiences through critical literacy has become a pressing issue in the field of education. By focusing on basic language and literacy skills, English language learners (ELLs) have rarely been exposed to critical literacy, a force to empower them as active learners. One of the major reasons is based on the misconception that ELLs, who are learning English, might not have the ability to critique and analyze texts, issues, and realities. More recent empirical studies challenge this misconception by showing the possibilities of ELLs’ engagement in critical literacy practices. The specific frameworks developed by language and literacy scholars have contributed to making critical literacy theory a more applicable and approachable practice. Despite the possibilities shown from recent research in classroom contexts, challenges also exist from both micro- and macrolevels. Challenges include the absence of fundamental critical literacy tenets from the school curriculum and policy, the absence of required critical literacy coursework from many pre- and in-service teacher education programs, and educator discomfort, rooted in misconceptions and false assumptions, with the implementation of critical literacy strategies in their classrooms. Both challenges and possibilities provide directions to the field of critical language and literacy education for future research and practice as ways to address affording equitable access for increasingly diverse ELLs.

Article

Psychology’s attention to mental events took root in the middle of the 19th century and grew through studies of learning, forgetting, and problem solving. Following several decades during which behaviorism dominated the field, cognitive studies of learning rapidly expanded after the mid-1960s. Foci for research concerned how learners acquire different kinds information, particularly declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, and schemas, and identifying cognitive operations learners can apply to transform experience into knowledge. What learners know significantly shapes what they learn. Prior knowledge often benefits learning, but inaccurate knowledge, called misconceptions, and skills applied indiscriminately can impede it. Effort to learn, called cognitive load, is not a unary concept. Designing learning tasks to focus cognition in ways germane to content is one key to effective instruction. Learners can think about their cognition and its properties. This is metacognition. Examples include judgments of whether and what is learned, planning shaped by the relative success in tasks and affective experiences, and decisions to abandon risky or unproductive tasks. Measures of metacognition, predominantly learners’ reports as opposed to direct indicators, correlate modestly with achievement, but this may reflect that students are not often educated in study tactics and learning strategies. Metacognition is a key factor in learners’ decisions about which study tactics and learning strategies they use, and a challenge learners face is overcoming overconfidence about what they know. The metacognitive decision-making event is modeled as an If–Then production. Metacognitive control of how learners choose to go about learning is conditional on metacognitive monitoring of conditions the learner believes will influence learning processes and outcomes. When learners experiment with approaches to learning, they engage in self-regulated learning (SRL). SRL is a very energetic area of research that spans investigations into learners’ metacognition about conditions for learning, operations on information, products resulting from those operations, and evaluations of products in terms of standards the learner holds; the COPES model. Like its foundation in metacognition, SRL also correlates modestly with achievement and is similarly challenged by relying on learners’ self-reports about SRL. However, learners can be taught how to better apply SRL which may realize benefits to achievement.

Article

Lucia Mason

Individuals of all ages have misconceptions about phenomena of the natural and physical world. They may think, for example, that summer is hotter because the Earth is closer to the Sun, and it is colder in winter because the Earth is farther away from the Sun. This explanation is not compatible with the scientific explanation of the phenomenon. Scientific learning often implies the revision of naïve conceptions, or conceptual change, which is not a quick and easy process. Researchers have addressed the question of the nature of conceptual change in terms of what the acquisition of new science knowledge entails when students hold misconceptions and need to revise their mental representations. Various approaches have been proposed to account for the mechanisms that underlie conceptual change and to draw implications for teaching and learning processes. For some decades conceptual change was only examined from a purely cognitive perspective (“cold” conceptual change), while more recently motivational and emotional aspects (“warm” conceptual change) have received attention. Research findings indicate that individual differences in misconceived prior knowledge, along with differences in achievement goals, self-efficacy, interest, and epistemic beliefs, as well as differences in the emotions experienced in learning contexts, are all associated with conceptual change. More recently, research has challenged the idea that misconceptions disappear permanently after conceptual change has taken place. Previously acquired, incorrect information still competes with the newly acquired correct information. The executive function of inhibition seems to be involved when naïve and scientific conceptions co-exist in the learner’s memory and the latter is used to produce a correct answer. Further research is needed on the role of inhibitory control in relation to learning concepts and affective states during scientific learning.