What is the Conceptual Change Model?


This past Thursday (3/29), we had the pleasure to attend and present at the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society (MEES) conference in Worcester, MA.  The MEES conference is a wonderful venue to meet new people, connect with other educators, and share new ideas. Ben and K attended workshops ranging from developing online marketing strategies to learning how to use bird population tracking to collect data about climate change.  We also had the chance to present on a topic that is becoming increasingly relevant within science education: student misconceptions.

Over the past 30 years, there have been many studies attempting to understand how student misconceptions occur and how to correct those misconceptions during science class.  In Conceptual Change Model: The CCM Handbook, the authors present a lesson plan model for tackling conceptual change: the Conceptual Change Model (CMM).  Teachers and educators are encouraged to use this model to shape their lesson plans to target specific misconceptions they may be encountering in their students.

We used to the stream table to model using the CCM to correct a common student misconception: erosion.  Many students believe that erosion is what happens when a rock or other large material wears away over time due to wind, water, and other factors.  In fact, that process is called “weathering.” Erosion occurs when stuff, like sand, rocks, and other sediment, is moved from one place to another.  Erosion can be cause by rivers, glaciers, avalanches, and humans.  When that stuff comes to a rest, it is called deposition.


The CCM follows a series of steps to correct a student misconception, beginning with asking the student to commit to and express their misconception.  Along the way, the student is shown the correct answer and then given the time and room to reflect on the new knowledge, then repeatedly apply that new knowledge in a hands-on experience.  Through application and repetition, the student sheds the misconception and accommodates the new concept in his or her mind.

The stream table is an amazing tool for students to apply their knowledge.  Students love getting their hands dirty in the sand, and when the water flows through the table, they get to see erosion and deposition in action.  We had an amazing time with the group of educators at our presentation. They used their newfound knowledge of the CCM to create new lesson outlines that they might use in their own work to tackle common student misconceptions!

Schmidt, D. L., Saigo, B. W., & Stepans, J. I. (2006). Conceptual change model: The CCM handbook. Saiwood Publications.