Using misconceptions research in the design of optics instructional materials and teacher professional development programs

Stephen M. Pompea, Erin F. Dokter, Constance E. Walker, Robert T. Sparks

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


To create the Hands-On Optics program and its associated instructional materials, we needed to understand a number of basic optics misconceptions held by children (and adults) and how to address them through a proper educational approach. The activities have been built with an understanding of the naïve concepts many people have about light, color, and optical phenomena in general. Our own experience is that the concepts that children and adults have of light are often not that different from each other. This paper explores the most common misconceptions about light and color, according to educational research, and describes how they can be addressed in optics education programs. This understanding of misconceptions was useful as well in the professional development component of the program where educators were trained on the Hands-On Optics modules. The professional development work for the optics industry volunteers who worked with the educators was also based on research on how an optics professional can work more effectively in multi-cultural settings-an area with great applicability to industry volunteers working in the very different culture of science centers or after-school programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number966515
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes
Event10th International Topical Meeting on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics - Ottawa, Canada
Duration: Jun 3 2007 → …


  • Optics education
  • inquiry
  • misconceptions
  • professional development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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