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Observation misconceptions and concepts

See also experiment and science investigation inquiry unpacked

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)
(Explanations, Naive understanding, Misconceptions, or Perceptual responses)

  1. Observations are only things that can be seen.
  2. Every body sees things the same as I do.

Beginning concepts (preschool - 7 years)

  1. Observations are made with five sense: see, touch, hear, smell, and taste.
  2. People learn with careful observation.
  3. Objects can be observed as whole objects and by their properties.
  4. Questions can be answered by looking at objects.
  5. People learn by observing interactions with objects.
  6. Observations can be compared through communication about the objects and the object's properties.
  7. When people report different observations they can take more observations to try and find agreement.
  8. Tools can be used to make better and more accurate observations (magnifiers...).
  9. Observations help collect information that can be used to answer questions.
  10. Communication helps us explain observations as evidence and reasoning to each other.

Intermediate concepts (7 years - 11 years)

  1. Questions can be answered by organizing objects and or events to conduct a fair test and observing the results.
  2. Recording observations helps remember information.
  3. Observations are used to help make explanations.
  4. When people disagree on observational descriptions, they usually make more observations to clarrify.
  5. When people disagree on explanations for an observation, they usually make more observations to refine their explanations.
  6. Observation, creativity, and logical argument are used to explain how things work.

Literate concepts (11+)

  1. Questions can be created so observations of objects and or events can be made by conducting a controlled experiment to use the observations as evidence for answering the question.
  2. The data can be transformed and analized by ordering, classifying, creating a model, and or logical explanation to lead to a conclusion related to the initial question.
  3. Observations are made to see how properties change.
  4. Properties that change are variables.
  5. Observations are used to describe change in variables.
  6. If more than one variable changes at a time, the outcome may not be attributed to one of the variables.
  7. It may not be possible to identify or control all variables.
  8. What people expect to observe often affects what they actually do observe.
  9. Strong beliefs about what they expect to happen can prevent them from seeing other results.
  10. Scientists try to avoid observational errors by having different people conduct independent studies.
  11. Unexpected observations can lead to new discoveries and to new investigations.
  12. There are many kinds of signals in the world that are not observable with human senses.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes &