• Harvey Thorleifson, Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • Carrie Jennings, Vice Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • David Bush, Technical Program Chair
    University of West Georgia
  • Jim Miller, Field Trip Chair
    University of Minnesota Duluth
  • Curtis M. Hudak, Sponsorship Chair
    Foth Infrastructure & Environment, LLC


Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


PETCOVIC, Heather L., Department of Geosciences and The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241,

One of the major challenges in teaching any student population lies in eliciting and confronting deeply held alternate conceptions. It is particularly important that instructors help preservice teachers to encounter and amend their alternate conceptions and develop accurate conceptual understandings in order to prevent these future teachers from propagating misconceptions among the students they will eventually teach. In a physical and historical geology content course especially designed for future elementary (K-8) teachers at Western Michigan University (“Exploring Earth Science: Geology”), I employ several strategies to explicitly address commonly held earth science misconceptions. Each lab- and discussion-based class session begins with a series of questions designed to elicit potential alternate conceptions related to the day’s topic. These conceptions are explicitly discussed during and revisited after the lesson. During the activities and discussion, students are prompted to reflect on what alternate conceptions elementary-aged children may have related to the day’s topic; I have found that this approach encourages open discussion about alternate conceptions. On each unit exam, students must describe common misconceptions that children have about earth science topics on that exam, and explain why they are considered misconceptions. Finally, students engage in a semester project in which they choose an earth science topic included in the state content expectations, research the common misconceptions that children have about that topic, interview a child to find out his/her ideas about the topic, and then develop an inquiry-based lesson that addresses both the chosen topic and the alternate conceptions encountered during the research and interview. Pre/posttest data from a 15-item version of the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) suggests that these strategies are effective; across 10 semesters, 12 course sections, and four different instructors, raw gains on the GCI average 19.5%.
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