Misconceptions like the one in this CYII are often reinforced by our everyday experiences. Likely you’ve seen many plants flourishing in nutrient-rich, moist soil. From a young age you also learned that plants like to be showered with sunshine and all living organisms need food to thrive. More likely than not, you’ve also heard fertilizers advertised as “plant food.” So it’s easy to incorrectly connect the dots and assume the nutrients and sunlight are food for plants.
In truth, “plant food” is more complicated. While there are a few exceptions, most plants use the process of photosynthesis to generate their own food. That is, they use energy from sunlight to change carbon dioxide and water into glucose — their food. In fact, most of the matter plants use for photosynthesis does not come from water or nutrient-rich soil. It comes from carbon dioxide in the air!
Revelations like this are a natural part of learning science for teachers and students alike. So, why all the fuss about the wrong ideas?
Perhaps the biggest reason to examine commonly held, incorrect ideas (and the logic behind them) is that they give us insight into students’ science ideas and how they make sense of the world around them. Talking about CYIIs helps teachers develop strategies that can move students toward more complete, accurate, and precise understandings.
Making Sense of SCIENCE materials illustrate common, incorrect ideas alongside the correct idea. Research has shown that contrasting an incorrect idea with a correct one helps us understand the underlying concept more fully (Durkin, Rittle-Johnson, 2009). In fact, one strategy for helping students dislodge their own incorrect ideas is to show them contrasting CYII examples like these.
We’d love to hear stories of CYIIs you or your students have had. What incorrect science ideas have you heard? What about the idea seemed logical? How might you help someone with this CYII reach a more complete, accurate, and precise understanding?