Leveraging Student Misconceptions to Improve Teaching of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

By

Travis T. Fuchs

PhD Candidate at the University of British Columbia

Dr. Kevin Bonney

Clinical Associate Professor in Liberal Studies at New York University

&

Mike Arsenault

AP Biology Teacher at Lakefield College School

Students come to science class with many ideas of how the natural world works, some of which do not match the consensus of the scientific community and can lead to misunderstandings. Because a growing body of educational research indicates that these misconceptions can serve as resources for learning, we developed a four-point plan to leverage knowledge of common misconceptions to improve classroom teaching by refining instructional focus, providing opportunities for reflective practice, applying evidence-based practices, and promoting exploration of learning theories. By sharing this plan with our teaching colleagues, we were able to foster a collaborative approach to our and others’ practice. To do this, we compiled a resource bank of common student misconceptions using data collected from the University of Toronto’s National Biology Competition, developed a guide for using this misconception resource bank to promote best teaching practices, then shared this plan with our teaching colleagues in order to foster a collaborative approach to our pedagogy. In this article, we present the resource bank and guide and provide teaching tips that can be applied to a wide array of scientific course types and educational levels.


Fuchs, T. T., Bonney, K. M., & Arsenault, M. (2021). Leveraging Student Misconceptions to Improve Teaching of Biochemistry & Cell Biology. The American Biology Teacher83(1), 5-11.