Debunking misconceptions: Inducing corrections, raising awareness, or fruitless exercise?

Year: 2018

Author: Pieschl, Stephanie, Archer, Jennifer, Budd, Janene

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

People’s knowledge and beliefs influence how they process new information and behave in new situations.  However, their lay theories – in contrast to rigorously developed scientific theories – can be superficial, fragmented, and may contain misconceptions. This is a domain-general phenomenon, but learners seem to have exceptionally persistent misconceptions and notable overconfidence regarding psychological topics (Bensley & Lilienfeld, 2017).  Educational psychology in particular is considered common sense (Langenfeldt, 1989).  One potential explanation is high levels of lay expertise:  laypeople have ample experience with formal education and they can explain many educational phenomena post hoc without referring to technical terms.  If teachers, like laypeople, harbour misconceptions and apply these to their classrooms (instead of evidence-based methods) their teaching is likely to suffer.
Explicitly addressing educational psychology misconceptions does not seem to be enough for permanent correction of misconceptions. However, providing opportunities to experience misconceptions first-hand should make learners more aware of their knowledge gaps (Hypothesis 1: metacognitive judgments), motivate them to process educational psychological content deeply, and thereby induce the correction of misconceptions (Hypothesis 2: misconception correction).
The effectiveness of an awareness raising intervention about misconceptions is investigated in an educational psychology course for student teachers.  In a 2x2 within-subject design, misconceptions about educational psychology are measured at the start and at the end of the semester (factor: T1 vs. T2); some of these misconceptions are addressed during the course while others are not addressed (factor: included vs. control). To measure misconceptions, students were confronted with 20 pairs of correct and (fictitious) incorrect extracts from research reports. They have to decide which one is true and make metacognitive confidence and knowledge judgments. The correct versions of research reports are disclosed after each data collection, and, at T1, the nature of lay theories, misconceptions, and confirmation bias are discussed. It is anticipated that the intervention will result in more accurate metacognitive judgments (awareness) and fewer misconceptions (correction) at T2 than T1 in the included condition (that is, misconceptions explicitly addressed during the course).  
Data collection at Time One provided responses from 230 students.  Data collection at Time Two currently is in progress.  We anticipate that there will be data from approximately 100 students at both times of testing. The results should have research implications for misconceptions and metacognitive judgments and practical implications for teaching educational psychology to students in initial teacher training programs.