Uncovering misconceptions

Jo Moules, Jo Horlock, Stuart Naylor and Brenda Keogh
Millgate House Education
2015 | 195 pages | £60 (book and CD)
ISBN 9780956264688


In a subject that regularly shifts between macroscopic, microscopic and symbolic ideas, our students inevitably develop a unique conceptual framework as they progress through the syllabus. Their personal framework is the lens through which they rationalise everyday phenomena and laboratory observations, and make sense of new ideas; it can be rather surprising when we discover what they are really thinking.

Most teachers are aware that for their students to make meaningful progress it is useful to unearth and challenge misconceptions early in the learning process. This second helping of concept cartoons aims to provide stimuli to do this through classroom dialogue.

The book is not exclusively based on chemistry. However, the chemical concepts covered are sound, and include the nature of pure substances, atoms and bonding, changes of state and dissolving. Important ideas linked to chemical change include the role of electrons, conservation of mass and energy change. There are cartoons on specific substances such as carbon, gold and smart materials, and some environmental issues such as waste and greenhouse gases.

The cartoons are the product of an academic collaboration, which looked at both common misconceptions and the effectiveness of this approach. There is a useful introductory section on how they may be used most effectively, the nature of student dialogue and how to encourage a non-judgemental discussion based around one of the cartoons. It is also interesting to hear about their use in active assessment rather than simply as topic starters; more ideas and background are available on the Millgate House website.

Each cartoon features speech bubbles showing a range of opinions about a central question, followed by teacher notes and suggested follow-up activities, which are often practical in nature. The colourful CD-ROM also allows for editing and embedding cartoons into other applications.

The format is fairly similar throughout and would probably get a bit tired if used too often, but it would still make a useful off-the-shelf resource.

Royal Society of Chemistry members receive a 20% discount. Visit the member benefits website to find out more.

Alternatively, purchase Science concept cartoons set 2 direct from Millgate House.