Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 20 Issue 04

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Volume 20, No. 4
Pages 170 - 173

THE OCEANOGRAPHY CLASSROOM • 110 Misconceptions About the Ocean

Robert J. Feller
First Paragraph

Misconceptions impede student learning, especially in science. As teachers of earth science, we would be wise to identify misconceptions whenever possible before launching new topics in our oceanography courses. A good way to do this is to pose creative, multiple-choice, PowerPoint questions that can be answered anonymously using student-response systems, “clickers,” in large introductory classes (Beatty et al., 2006; Caldwell, 2007) (Figure 1). Having taught many such classes for nonscience majors—mostly without clickers—since my very first laboratory as a teaching assistant in the evening OCN 101 course at the University of Washington in summer 1970 (taught by Eddy Carmack, by the way), I have come across student misconceptions too numerous to count. The very first one came during a one-on-one laboratory write-up help session in this class. The student was a freshman nonoceanography, nonscience major who wondered why people in the Southern Hemisphere didn’t fall off the earth. For some odd reason, this same student also had trouble solving rate x time = distance problems, not to mention difficulties with metric system conversions. With class sizes ranging from 15 to 415 in the 40+ oceanography classes I’ve taught since 1970, one would think that few misconceptions would go unheard or unread on tests, but this is simply not the case. I still confront new ones all the time. Thanks to the current crop of students in my Fundamentals of Biological Oceanography class, a few more were added to the list just this semester.


Feller, R.J. 2007. Education: 110 misconceptions about the ocean. Oceanography 20(4):170–173, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2007.22.