Addressing misconceptions through inquiry in first grade science
Jones, Cameron Cecil
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Inquiry-based teaching harnesses students' innate curiosity and ability to be natural scientists. Students have misconceptions that may interfere with learning about scientific concepts, whether learning through their own experiences or from friends, family, or school. Many students retain or revert back to their misconceptions, even after instruction designed to challenge old ideas and accept the new ideas. Although inquiry-based learning is recommended, it is far from the norm and many teachers show apprehension about teaching through inquiry. Different forms of inquiry may or may not be effective at repairing student misconceptions. This classroom research project analyzed the effectiveness of four types of inquiry-based instruction in repairing scientific misconceptions in a first grade class. A demonstrated inquiry unit was taught on the movements of the sun, moon, and Earth across the sky. The second unit was about the seasons and taught as structured inquiry. Then a 5E guided inquiry unit was taught about light. The last unit was an open inquiry on sound. At the beginning, the end, and one month following each unit, a series of misconception probes were administered. The probes measured nine targeted concepts along with student confidence in the concepts. Students' perception of their learning was measured using daily administered Likert surveys on engagement and control of learning. The results of the study indicated that students learned some of the new concepts, but they also retained many of the misconceptions. Some misconceptions were created or became more popular throughout the treatment. The results also indicated that many students had a better understanding of some of the topics a month after the unit was completed. Overall students perceived inquiry-based instruction to be engaging.