CL1 - Teaching Stories: Confronting Student Misconceptions in a Large Class



Confronting Student Misconceptions
  in a Large Class
- by Dan Udovic

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To get at deeply held misconceptions one needs to challenge students to think hard about their ideas. Rather than lecturing, I use this activity to get them talking to one another.

This activity uses small-group discussions of multiple choice questions to help students confront a variety of misconceptions about natural selection.

We have found that it is possible to actively engage students--even in a large lecture setting--in ways that challenge their deeply held misconceptions. We use this activity in a large (over 100 students) introductory, non-majors biology course to get students actively involved in thinking about a difficult topic. The small-group work is used after students have been introduced to the concept of evolution by natural selection through reading assignments and lectures.

Putting students in situations where they work together is useful because it helps them see the diverse ways that others understand the material. By being placed into a situation where they must reach consensus and make a group decision, students must share their reasoning with each other. In these settings it quickly becomes clear to them what they really understand and what they are merely familiar with.

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