the validity of statements (Table 1) related to some common biology
misconceptions revealed by the examination reports of the Hong
Kong Diploma of Secondary Education public examination (for
12th-grade students; e.g., Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment
Authority, 2018). Some of the items are controversial, as the statements can be correct or incorrect depending on the reasons that
are given to justify them. The statements provided here are illustrative examples and can be replaced with other statements. Readers
can consult the resources suggested (see Table 2) when writing the
statements. The following materials are required for the activity:
• Empty boxes (e.g., shoeboxes) (×8)
• Misconception items printed on paper (×8) (see Figure 1 for an
• Post-box ticket (×8) for each group (Appendix 1)
• Group task sheet (×1) for each group (Appendix 2)
• Scaffolds that stimulate student thinking about the related concepts (see Figure 1 for an example)
The activity comprises the three successive stages detailed below.
Stage 1: Exploring students’ views about the misconception statements
(2–3 minutes each depending on the ability of the students; total 20 minutes)
• Students individually determine the validity of the misconception statements.
• Students work in pairs to visit each of the eight post-box stations (Figure 1).
• At each post-box station, students discuss and come to an
agreement on the validity of the statement.
• Students write down their reasoning on the supplied post-box
• Students may open a “black box,” which provides some hints
• Students put their post-box ticket into the post-box.
• Students are also asked to nominate the “most difficult”
statement for further discussion.
Stage 2: Summarizing collective views on the misconception items
• Students work in groups of four to summarize the views
expressed on each statement.
• Students are asked to analyze the differences between the
Table 1. Sample statements for post-box activity.
Statement Materials in the Black Box
1. The mass of a tree comes from soil. Piece of wood; piece of dry ice
2. Transpiration can take place in a plant without a healthy root system. Cut stem of a white carnation in a dye
3. Under bright light conditions, plant roots release oxygen. Plants with roots
4. Contraction of the muscles of the aorta propels blood forward along the
Aorta arch; weights
5. A glowing splint can be used to compare the oxygen content of inhaled
air and exhaled air.
Gas jar; wooden splints; match
6. Reabsorption of water occurs mainly in the colon of the alimentary canal. Model of human torso; model of small
7. When DNA replicates, hydrogen bonds between the nucleotides break. DNA model
8. The pupil is the effector of the pupil reflex. Eye model
Table 2. A list of resources of students’ common misconceptions.
Books that document student misconceptions in a number of topics:
Driver et al. (2014), Kampourakis & Reiss (2018), Yip (2008)
Examples of articles that contain a catalogue of student misconceptions:
Cell and cell processes Dikmenli (2010), Fisher et al. (2011)
Plant physiology Haslam & Treagust (1987), Wynn et al. (2017)
Human physiology Alkhawaldeh (2007), Treagust & Mann (1998)
Molecular biology and evolution Ben-Nun & Yarden (2009), Gregory (2009)
Ecology Munson (1994)