Thursday, July 9, 2015

I taught something wrong...

All educators, I don't care HOW good they are, make mistakes while teaching.  We either say something incorrectly, which leads to confusion or we simply have an inaccurate understanding of something ourselves thus teach it incorrectly.  That latter is what happened to me.  To be fair, I have not received a bachelors, masters or a minor in the subject I am currently teaching.  I am basically self taught.  This has led to gaps in my knowledge base and sometimes just straight misinterpretation.  I take credit for this and try very hard to make sure I truly have a deep conceptual understanding of the material.

I hate being wrong.  I hate misguiding my students.  I hate NOT being able to correct my error.  By the time I figured out that I had made the mistake it was too late, the school year had ended.  Will my misstep cost the students and deeper understanding of life on earth, science as a whole, etc?  No.  Most of them probably won't notice or even care that I screwed up.  But, as a perfectionist I am disappointed with myself.

But then it hit me.  In my saddened state, I realized that there could be a cool teaching tool here.   Maybe I should approach some of the discussions in class from this angle.  The places where I have made mistakes could be very teachable moments!  In other words, the common misconceptions could be the starting point of discovery for the students.

Examples:
Is blood really blue in humans?  Explain/make a model
How does ATP provide energy?
Will two items fall at the same rate?  Explain/make a model
Why do batteries lose their charge?  Explain/make a model
As you approach the center of the earth, what happens to gravity?  Explain/make a model

The kicker is coming up with the questions.  It's hard to remember what was confusing for me.  But, I believe that this approach could lead to a very deep understanding of the material.  I also believe that this approach goes hand-in-hand with the shift to NGSS.

Though I am super bummed that I did not have a strong enough conceptual understanding of the topic that I had taught incorrectly, I know for a fact that I am not the only teacher that feels this way. Textbooks and traditional worksheets usually do not provide an in depth conceptual foundation of knowledge.  Heck, most of us were trained to memorize and regurgitate, not actually understand a phenomenon.  I am hoping that as NGSS is brought on board it will allow all of us (students and teachers) to learn together.

In the mean time, I will go study to make sure I have a better understanding of the content that I am teaching.