Practice Brief 37 -- Topics: Assessment Instruction

Beyond “misconceptions”: How to recognize and build on Facets of student thinking

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Why It Matters To You
  • Teachers should learn to see patterns in the range of students’ thinking about specific science topics and to plan instructional approaches that help students refine their understanding.
  • District Staff & PD Providers should engage teachers in the shared analysis of the facets of reasoning present in student work and performances.
  • School Leaders should visit the classroom near the beginning and the end of a unit to see how students are expressing and refining their understanding over time.

What Is The Issue?

Students bring a range of different ideas for understanding science phenomena, concepts, and representations based on their unique life experiences. Rather than simply viewing students’ intuitive or partially scientific ideas as misconceptions, the diversity of student’s ideas can be considered stepping stones to deeper understanding and teachers should actively engage with them. It is important for teachers to be able to recognize, build on, and respond to the range of ideas—or Facets of students’ thinking—during instruction.



Reflection Questions

  • When a student says an incorrect idea, can you avoid evaluating their response as simply right or wrong? Ask them to reason about how the idea relates to evidence from their experience or to science experiences or ideas.
  • What patterns of thinking do you see students express? What is their underlying model for the phenomena? How can you instructionally respond?
  • How does the Facet Cluster below highlight gaps in student knowledge and reasoning?

Things to Consider

Falling Bodies Facet Cluster

*340 Fall time depends upon gravitational field strength and inversely upon fluid medium resistance

*341 With no resistance by fluid medium, vertical fall near the earth’s surface is at nearly constant acceleration of 10 m/s2

342 Gravitational pull and mass compensate with no accounting for air resistance.

343 Greater drag effects compensate for greater gravitational pull explaining equal accelerations

344 Medium effects will exist even when there is no motion relative to fluid medium

345 All things fall equally fast regardless of medium effects

346 Vertical fall is at a constant velocity of 10 m/sec

348 Heavier will hold back more (fall slower)

348-1 Larger falls substantially slower

349 Heavier falls faster

349-1 Larger falls faster

Facets organized from more to less productive.

Attending to Equity

Recommended Actions You Can Take

Explore to see how to use facets in instruction.

Use a Protocol to Identify & Attend to Facets of Student Thinking:


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