learned and when they do not understand. Participants identified two challenges in achieving these desired outcomes. First, many students are resistant to learner-centered instruction, often because they have had little opportunity prior to college to develop independent learning skills or because they have been trained to focus on memorizable facts rather than on conceptual understanding. Second, students’ preconceptions can be highly resistant to change, even with instruction that provides strong evidence that their interpretation is incorrect. As we will illustrate in the next chapter, carefully designed science education research4 identifies specific student difficulties and develops instructional strategies that are effective in correcting such misconceptions.


To distinguish between disciplinary research conducted in the subject area of specific science fields and research conducted on teaching and learning of the discipline, the terms “science research” and “science education research” are used respectively. If implemented according to well-established principles, both kinds of research can be “scientific” (NRC, 2002c).

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