Students can have various misconceptions regarding the notion of ‘air.’ The problem is in the fact that it is rather difficult for children to discuss the air in the context of such notions as ‘volume,’ ‘weight,’ ‘vacuum,’ and ‘atmospheric pressure’ (Driver, Rushworth, Squires, & Wood-Robinson, 2005). Thus, children understand basic ideas regarding a gaseous state of the air, but they can have some misconceptions while analyzing particles that form the mass of the air.
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In addition, there are many misconceptions that are related to understanding differences in masses, volumes, and pressures while discussing the air as a mixture of gases. It is also important to note that students can experience difficulties while studying how the air interacts with water or different objects with the focus on ideas of ‘pressure’ and ‘vacuum’ (Driver et al., 2005). For instance, students can think that when they cannot see the air, it is possible to speak about the vacuum. In order to address such ideas, it is important to propose certain teaching strategies that are helpful to demonstrate how the air can interact with other substances and materials and what processes can be observed.
The probes that are aimed to uncover students’ ideas and misconceptions regarding scientific notions can be discussed as effective because of their structure. The content can change depending on the topic that is studied by students. While working with a probe, students focus on ideas or concepts to discuss, and they also try to choose the correct answer to the question among the proposed variants. The advantage of such a structure is an opportunity to uncover students’ possible misconceptions while referring to not only open discussions but also similar probes and other types of tests.
Thus, a probe is used in order to model a situation and pose a question regarding a scientific concept or phenomenon, and a student can decide what answer to the question is correct, as well as explain his or her position when it is necessary to conduct the formative and summative assessment. While discussing the proposed probes, it is possible to make modifications regarding the content in order to address misconceptions that are directly related to the notion of ‘air.’ The overall structure of the probes can be discussed as effective. Still, it is possible to add more illustrations in order to address the needs of students who are visual learners.
In order to help students cope with different misconceptions while studying the concept of ‘air,’ it is also necessary to use other strategies that can include question and answer sessions, discussions, and demonstrations. Prior to starting a discussion of the concept, a teacher can ask students regarding their visions related to the idea of ‘air,’ its volume, masses, particles, and state. While answering the proposed questions, students should listen to each other and reflect on the answers of other children (Driver et al., 2005).
After explaining the notion, it is important to involve students in practical work or demonstrate connections between notions and processes with the help of illustrations. A discussion can be initiated to support students’ learning, and a level of understanding ideas can be checked not only with the help of the proposed probes but also with the help of tests, illustrated assignments, the work with figures and tables, and notes on observations among other methods.
Driver, R., Rushworth, P., Squires, A., & Wood-Robinson, V. (2005). Making sense of secondary science: Research into children’s ideas. New York, NY: Routledge.
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