Teachers wear many hats in the classroom. We are doctors, therapists, IT technicians, politicians, and entertainers, but the one hat we wear that is essential for student learning is the detective’s hat. As detectives, we gather and analyze evidence to help us understand what our students know and don’t know and what misconceptions they may have. Instead of this “detective work,” though, teachers often consider student work as an end product to assess learning rather than a tool to investigate student learning.
My young students did not come to me as a blank slate. They brought a bouquet of preconceptions about science, and those preconceptions either worked for or against their ability to understand the core ideas in science. I quickly learned that I could “teach my heart out” and do fun activities, and my students could regurgitate what I taught them. However, they did not comprehend the new concepts as well as I thought they had, and they certainly could not apply that knowledge to other concepts in science. What was I doing wrong?