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Science and Technology/Engineering
Curriculum Framework - Spring 2001

Guiding Principle IV

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An effective program in science and technology/engineering addresses students' prior knowledge and misconceptions.

Students are innately curious about the world and wonder how things work. They may make spontaneous, perceptive observations about natural objects and processes, and can often be found taking things apart and reassembling them. In many cases, they have developed mental models about how the world works. However, these mental models may be inaccurate even though they may make sense to the students, and the inaccuracies work against learning.

Research into misconceptions demonstrates that children can hold onto misconceptions even while reproducing what they have been taught are the "correct answers." For example, young children may repeat that the earth is round, as they have been told, while continuing to believe that the earth is flat, which is what they can see for themselves. They find a variety of ingenious ways of reconciling their knowledge, e.g., by concluding that we live on a flat plate inside the round globe.

Teachers must be skilled at uncovering inaccuracies in students' prior knowledge and observations, and in devising experiences that will challenge inaccurate beliefs and redirect student learning along more productive routes. The students' natural curiosity provides one entry point for learning experiences designed to remove students' misconceptions in science and technology/engineering.

Last Updated: May 1, 2001
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