Deep connected learning tools

The ability to question ideas, challenge perceptions and reach consensus is an important part of developing a deep connected understanding of science.

Every student comes to the classroom with a set of experiences that influence their thinking and how they understand the world. While some of these ideas might align with scientifically accepted thinking, many students may hold at least some alternative conceptions about scientific ideas. These alternative conceptions can be the result of preconceptions, intuitive theories, misinformation, or simply a limited exposure to, and opportunities to think deeply about, a phenomenon. The casual use of ‘scientific language’ in everyday speech can mean that some words develop different meanings over time, which can also contribute to the development of students’ alternative conceptions.

Alternative conceptions can limit new learning in a classroom if they remain unidentified, so the first step in any science teaching sequence should enable their identification.

One of the main components of the Launch phase, the Elicit routine, provides the first opportunity to do this. This provides teachers with an opportunity to plan an experience and discussion questions that encourage students to identify their current ideas and to examine them for accuracy. Knowing the alternative conceptions to expect allows for better planning and deep-connected learning experiences.

This is not the only time teachers should be paying attention to students' understanding of particular concepts. The Integrate routine during each Inquire phase provides opportunities for students to make their learning visible and for teachers to encourage students to question their understanding as they integrate their new knowledge.

Once identified, consider if the alternative conception could be used to prime new thinking by creating a bridge of examples for the new concept. Alternatively, present students with experiences during the next Inquire phase that challenge their current perceptions. This can be a useful opportunity to discuss how scientific ideas may change when new evidence is presented.

The ability to question ideas, challenge perceptions, and reach consensus is an important part of developing a deep connected understanding of science.

In the following video, teachers discuss why it’s important to anticipate potential alternative conceptions (referred to as misconceptions), and how they address them in the classroom.

Biological science conceptions

The biological sciences involve the study of living things, their interdependence and interaction in the environment. The ongoing process of evolution has led to a diverse range of living things that have forms and features that make them suited to their environment. This results in biological systems that are interdependent with each other and their environment.

Physical science conceptions

The physical sciences involve the study of forces and motion, and matter and energy. How an object moves is influenced by a range of contact forces (friction) and non-contact forces (magnetic, gravitational and electrostatic). Energy can come in many forms (heat, light, sound, electricity) and can be transferred between objects or transformed from one form to another.

Earth and space science conceptions

The Earth and Space sciences involve the study of the dynamic interdependent nature of Earth’s systems and how it is part of a larger astronomical system. Interactions between Earth’s systems and astronomical systems can be explored over a range of time scales.

Chemical science conceptions

The chemical sciences involve the study of the composition and properties of substances. This involves classifying substances, exploring physical changes (changes of state or dissolving) and how chemical changes result in the production of new substances.