Skip to main content Accessibility help

Confronting and Correcting Misconceptions in Paleontology Through Use of the Conceptual Change Model

  • Diane Schmidt (a1) and Michael Savarese (a2)


The Conceptual Change Model (CCM) is an instructional approach that helps students learn by deliberately targeting their misconceptions. The teaching of such paleontological topics as evolution, phylogenetics, and functional morphology—three concept-rich units that are components of any paleontology course—is confounded by ingrained misunderstandings. The inquiry-based CCM was developed to take into account current theories of brain function. It fully supports the National Research Council's standards for inquiry and follows their recommendations for teaching science. The CCM instructional process allows students to: identify their own preconceptions, recognize the wide variety of beliefs held by classmates, confront their misconceptions, revise and reconstruct their ideas, apply their knowledge, and, finally, ask new questions for further study and growth. Implementation of the model provides a socially safe and challenging environment that engages students in ways not possible in traditional lecture settings. The CCM is employed in the upper-division course in paleontology at Florida Gulf Coast University. The principles of the paleontology course supports our marine science, environmental studies, and biology undergraduate programs. At the introduction of each topical unit, a short inquiry-based exercise is implemented both to reveal preconceptions carried by the students and to demonstrate the inconsistencies and problems with those conceptions. This then provides an opportunity to cleanly present the correct rendition of the concept.



Hide All
Dietl, G. P., and Flessa, K. W. 2011. Conservation paleobiology: putting the dead to work. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 26:3037.
Foote, M., and Miller, A. I. 2007. Principles of Paleontology. W. H. Freeman and Company, New York.
Gould, S. J., and Lewontin, R. C. 1979. The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 205:581598.
Gould, S. J., and Vrba, E. S. 1982. Exaptation—a missing term in the science of form. Paleobiology, 8:415.
Gredler, M. E. 2004. Learning and Instruction: Theory Into Practice (third edition). Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
National Research Council. 1996. Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC.
National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (expanded edition). Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., and Cocking, R. R. (eds.), The National Academies Press, Washington, D. C.
National Research Council. 2005. How Students Learn History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom. Donovan, M. S. and Bransford, J. D. (eds.). The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
National Science Teachers Association. 2001. College Pathways to the National Science Education Standards. Siebert, E. D. and McIntosh, W. J. (eds.). NSTA Press, Arlington, Virginia.
National Science Teachers Association. 2005. Exemplary Science: Best Practices in Professional Development. Yager, R. E. (ed.). NSTA Press, Arlington, Virginia.
Piaget, J. 1964. Cognitive development in children: development and learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 2:176186.
Piaget, J. 2007. The Child's Conception of the World. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Maryland.
Posner, G., Strike, K., Hewson, P., and Gertzog, W. 1982. Accommodation of a scientific conception: toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education, 66:211227.
Prothero, D. R. 2003. Bringing Fossils to Life: An Introduction to Paleobiology. McGraw Hill Higher Education, Boston, Massachusetts.
Saigo, B. W. 1999. A study to compare traditional and constructivism-based instruction of a high school biology unit on biosystematics. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 164 p.
Savarese, M. 2009. Taxonomy and phylogeny: building and comparing a taxonomy and phylogeny of bivalve mollusks. Teaching activity archived at the Science Education Resource Center. [].
Schmidt, D. L., and Henry, D. P. 2006. Project LAUNCH II mathematics and science partnership (MSP) program. Report to the Florida Department of Education and U.S. Department of Education.
Schmidt, D. L., Saigo, B. W., and Stepans, J. I. 2006. Conceptual Change Model: The CCM Handbook. Saiwood Publications, St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Stepans, J. I. 2006. Targeting Students' Science Misconceptions: Physical Science Concepts Using the Conceptual Change Model (third edition). Showboard, Tampa, Florida.
Stepans, J. I., and Schmidt, D. L. 2009. From Wyoming to Florida, they ask, “Why wasn't I taught this way?”, p. 5770. In Yaeger, R. (ed.), Inquiry: The Key to Exemplary Science. National Science Teachers Association Press, Arlington, Virginia.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Confronting and Correcting Misconceptions in Paleontology Through Use of the Conceptual Change Model

  • Diane Schmidt (a1) and Michael Savarese (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.