Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published September 2001. Reproduced with permission from Science Scope, a publication of the National Science Teachers Association ( for middle level science educators.


Teaching is an inexact science. Even experienced teachers have difficulty assessing the effectiveness of their lessons and students mastery of concept. Teachers must be particularly careful to avoid introducing or reinforcing student misconceptions. The following describes how we scrutinized and modified our own environmental education teaching practices to ensure that our students were learning what we were teaching. Our inquiry into students’ alternative conceptions about the environment was a very enlightening experience for both of us. Th e process revealed some beliefs that surprised us. However, the real surprise came when we realized that our own lessons reinforced (and sometimes formed) many of our students’ alternative conceptions. With our new insights, gained from listening to our students, we developed a better way to teach environmental education.