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

By Robert J. Feller  
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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.

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