2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
Paper No. 21-3
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM-9:00 AM

UPPER ELEMENTARY THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT AND TEACHER MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE CAUSES OF THE BREAKUP OF PANGAEA

LICONA, Peter, Curriculum and Instruction, The Pennsylvania State University, 118 Chambers Building, University Park, PA 16802, prl5046@psu.edu, PICKARD, Megan, Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 303 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802, and GUERTIN, Laura, Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063

Teachers of Earth Science concepts often have limited science backgrounds and therefore may have misconceptions about Earth Science processes that can affect their ability to teach these effectively. For example, most students and teachers are familiar with the term Pangaea, but few can correctly describe the underlying process of its breakup. This investigation addresses misconceptions held by students in and teachers of upper elementary through high school grades in Pennsylvania. An assessment was designed and administered to 359 students and 17 teachers to probe their knowledge of numerous Earth Science concepts. One question had students and teachers compare an illustration of Pangaea to an illustration of the current location of the continents and explain the cause of the differences. Student misconceptions ranged from being related to conceptual knowledge to those related to the wording of or representations used in the assessment question. Misconceptions related to conceptual knowledge were grouped in the following categories: natural disasters, causes related to water, Earth’s rotation, meteoric impact on Earth, the Big Bang Theory, and a higher power (God). Some students were able to identify the phenomenon of plate tectonics, without being able to correctly describe it.

In response to the Pangaea question, teachers generally expressed more complete knowledge of the processes involved in the breakup of Pangaea. The majority identified plate tectonics as the cause of the breakup without being able to fully describe the process. While correct conceptual understanding may have been expressed by some teachers, misconceptions were present. Most teacher misconceptions were related only to conceptual knowledge, such as meteoric impact on Earth and natural disasters. One was related to the wording or representations used in the assessment question.

Responses are being analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively based on the grade levels of students and the grades that teachers instruct. Our preliminary results suggest that misconceptions are held by both students and teachers throughout various grade levels in relation to the breakup of Pangaea. Teachers who hold misconceptions may be unable to correct student misconceptions thus allowing misconceptions to persist.

2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 21
Identifying and Addressing K16 Student Misconceptions in the Earth-Science Classroom
Minneapolis Convention Center: Room 211AB
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Sunday, 9 October 2011

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 67

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