Journal of Elementary Science Education

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 1–11 | Cite as

A study of common beliefs and misconceptions in physical science

  • Mary Stein
  • Timothy G. Larrabee
  • Charles R. Barman


The Science Belief Test is an online instrument comprised of 47 statements that require true or fals responses and request written explanations to accompany these responses. It targets topics in chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, and astronomy and was initially designed to assess preservice elementary teachers’ beliefs about general science content. A set of responses for six of the physical science items targeting force/ gravity and physical/chemical change was selected for analysis from 305 respondents. Written explanations were coded into three general categories: (1) correct explanation, Written explanations were coded into three general categories: (1) correct explanation, (2) incorrect explanation, (3) guess or uninterpretable. The correct response rates for the explanations were compared to the correct response rates that were based on the accompanying true or flase answers. The explanations were further analyzed and coded into specific categories that included alternative and naïve conceptions. Correct response rates, when analyzed from the true/false or written explanations, were low (<60%) for five of the six items. Naïve beliefs and/or misconceptions were prevalent for each of these five items, and understanding that students may hold these beliefs prior to instruction may provide teachers with useful information for the purpose of improving instruction.


Preservice Teacher Physical Science Preservice Elementary Teacher National Science Education Standard Correct Explanation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Stein
    • 1
  • Timothy G. Larrabee
    • 1
  • Charles R. Barman
    • 2
  1. 1.Oakland UniversityRochester
  2. 2.Indiana University Purdue UniversityIndianapolis

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