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Teachers' perceptions about children's misconceptions in science and their response. Maria Kambouri 1 st year PhD student, Education. My own experience.

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maria kambouri 1 st year phd student education

Teachers' perceptions

about children's misconceptions in science

and their response

Maria Kambouri

1st year PhD student, Education

my own experience
My own experience
  • Children have a lot of ideas, especially in science, that lead to mini-theories which are children’s own explanations about how our world work
  • Sometimes these ideas do not agree with what is generally accepted by the scientific community and
  • These ideas can make learning more difficult for children

This is a scene from a movie that shows a mother sitting with her 5 year old son at a beach watching the sunset. This is their conversation:

Boy: Mum, why sun dives in the sea? Is it because he feels hot?

Mother: Sun doesn’t dive in the sea (smiles).

Boy: Yes he does!

Mother: The earth is round and sun goes around.

Boy: Earth is straight! Mum, are you blind?

Mother: Honey, don’t insist. Galileo will come back from the dead if he’d listen to this!

Boy: You know NOTHING!



  • Nowadays, it is generally accepted that children do not come to school as a “tabula rasa” (Pine, Messer, John, 2001).
  • They bring with them ideas about the world around them and how and why it works (Bradley,1996).
  • From the moment of birth, or even from the conception, children are developing scientific ideas about the world around them (Johnston,1995).
  • These concepts are multiply held and often inconsistently applied by the children and, the most important, that they are remarkably resistant to change (Black & Lucas, 1993).


  • Children make assumptions, about how the world works, which are based on conceptions and ideas learned through everyday activities.
  • Children’s assumptions can be logical and reasonable but still can prevent the understanding of scientific concepts as they can lead to inaccurate conceptions, called misconceptions (Eaton, Anderson & Smith, 1984).
  • Misconceptions can make learning a difficult procedure for a student (Eaton, Anderson & Smith, 1984).
Leaving children to their misconceptions and hoping that they will overcome them is unfair (Schmidt, 1997)
  • Statistics suggest that teachers seldom have the time to identify children’s misconceptions and are often forced to assume a certain base of students knowledge (Chen, Kirkby & Morin, 2006)
aim of study and design
Aim of Study and Design
  • Discover teacher’s perceptions of children’s misconceptions in regard to science
  • Investigate how teachers respond to them when planning and teaching a lesson.

The research is based on case studies of Cypriot preprimary and primary teachers. The use of case study may help generalise for Cyprus as a whole.

A sample of teachers from all schools of south Cyprus teaching 3-7 year old children is used.

main research questions
Main Research Questions
  • What are teachers’ perceptions of children’s misconceptions about science and how do they identify them?
  • How do teachers link children’s misconceptions with a new concept when planning a lesson?
  • How do teachers respond and use children’s misconceptions during lessons?
  • How confident do pupils feel during science lessons to make mistakes and ask questions?
  • Questionnaires: designed, piloted and sent to 150 schools pre-primany and primary schools in Cyprus.
  • Key informant interviews: Professors at Cypriot Universities.
  • Observations of teachers teaching specific science topics selected from the national curriculum.
  • Post-test and pre-test trials designed by the researcher and teachers.
  • Two focus group interviews: one with pre-primary teachers and one with first grade primary teachers. 
during my first year as a research student i came across lots of difficulties like for example
During my first year as a research student I came across lots of difficulties like for example:
  • I couldn't find specific bibliography about misconceptions and the situation Cyprus
  • I also found it hard to decide the age group I should focus on and the population
  • Finally, it was hard to choose the science topics that I should focus on as there are too many topics in science