Children are inclined to associate new concepts with ideas that they have regarding certain objects and phenomena. Therefore, they can experience difficulties while working with concepts and terms that have different connotations in various situations. For instance, it is often difficult for children to distinguish between objects and materials that were used to manufacture these objects. Thus, children often associate the word ‘glass’ with an object rather than material. Such words as ‘gravel’, ‘sand’, or ‘clay’ are also not perceived as related to different types of substance or matter (Driver, Rushworth, Squires, & Wood-Robinson, 2005).
The same problem is observed while discussing the word ‘material’ because children have more associations with the word ‘fabric’ than with the word ‘matter’. As a result, students are often confused when teachers speak about drawing or building materials because children can experience difficulties not only with connotations but also with distinguishing between tangible and non-tangible things or meanings related to the same word (Driver et al., 2005). Also, students need to improve their knowledge regarding different types of material and substance, as well as regarding various connotations related to certain terms, to understand what matter or object is meant in the concrete situation.
Students’ previous experiences. How students’ experiences with ‘water’ and ‘air’ can lead to misconceptions.
Having certain experiences in observing water and air or working with them, children develop ideas that all liquids contain water, and they are associated with water. In this context, liquids are ‘runny’ and ‘watery’ (Driver et al., 2005). Furthermore, the previous experience with air does not allow students to understand the idea of mass about air and gases, as well as the fact that air is a mixture of different substances.
As a result, it is possible to observe certain misconceptions associated with children’s visions of liquids and gases. If liquids are ‘runny’, it is rather difficult to understand the ‘evaporation’ and ‘condensation’ concepts, and typical misconceptions are associated with changes in masses related to different water conditions (Driver et al., 2005). Furthermore, there is a misconception that gases have no masses. Also, children are inclined to develop the idea that ‘air’ and ‘gases’ have different qualities that can be discussed as good or bad (Driver et al., 2005). The reason is that children discuss air as good for breathing and gases as dangerous and harmful concerning their previous experiences and adults’ explanations.
Misconceptions associated with concepts of ‘dissolving’ and ‘melting’
Children can experience difficulties while trying to understand the concepts of ‘dissolving’ and ‘melting’ because of the necessity to realize processes associated with changing a condition of substances. As a result, children can develop a range of misconceptions. First, students can ignore differences between the processes of dissolving and melting and use the words or terms that describe these processes interchangeably. Second, students often think that the process of melting does not depend on the temperature, and it can be regulated concerning other factors.
Furthermore, while discussing the process of dissolving, children are inclined to state that substances ‘disappear’ or ‘turn into water’ (Driver et al., 2005). These misconceptions lead to forming wrong ideas regarding masses of substances. For instance, many students think that sugar disappears in water when it dissolves. However, speaking about the process of melting, students expect to find some particles in a sugar solution because of misconceptions regarding processes and changes in conditions of substances. Therefore, concepts of ‘dissolving’ and ‘melting’ should be explained by teachers properly to avoid the development of misconceptions in students.
Driver, R., Rushworth, P., Squires, A., & Wood-Robinson, V. (2005). Making sense of secondary science: Research into children’s ideas. New York, NY: Routledge.