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Teaching and Learning Protein Synthesis through Domain-Specific Language in Upper Secondary Education
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Engineering and Chemical Sciences (from 2013).
2019 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this licentiate thesis is to contribute to understanding of upper secondary teaching and learning of protein synthesis with a focus on domain-specific language. It is based on two studies, designated Studies I and II. Study I addressed upper secondary students’ understanding of protein synthesis through their usage of domain-specific concepts. Data collected through semi-structured group interviews show that students can better reason about core concepts than peripheral concepts, and they compartmentalise the concepts into five clusters. Study II focused on chemistry and biology textbooks’ presentation of protein synthesis through domain-specific concept usage and effects of context on these presentations. The textbooks were analysed using a content analysis approach involving data mining techniques implemented by a computer-generated algorithm. The results reveal that chemistry textbooks focus more on peripheral concepts and generally tend to identify fewer relationships among more concepts than biology textbooks, which emphasise core concepts and tend to highlight more relationships among fewer concepts. Jointly, Studies I and II reveal four facets of teaching and learning protein synthesis: ‘mechanistic or conceptual descriptions’, ‘compartmentalisation’, ‘mRNA as a core concept’ and ‘canonical representation’. By acknowledging the results reported herein, teaching can improve the facilitation and reduce the hindrance in learning protein synthesis through the awareness of the domain-specific language usage. 

Abstract [en]

Proteins are crucial to life: no proteins – no life. Every picosecond, thousands of proteins are constructed in each cell in what is referred to as protein synthesis. Due to its importance for understanding the mechanism for life, protein synthesis is globally regarded as a cornerstone of molecular life sciences and education in the field. Like any area of expertise, the molecular life sciences share a domain-specific language. However, research on teaching and learning protein synthesis through this domain-specific language is scarce. The aim of this licentiate thesis is thereby to contribute to understanding of upper secondary teaching and learning of protein synthesis with a focus on domain-specific language. The thesis is based on two studies: Study I addressed students’ understanding where the results show that students can better reason about core concepts than peripheral concepts, and they compartmentalise the concepts into five clusters. Study II focused on chemistry and biology textbooks’ presentation and effects of context on these presentations. The results reveal that chemistry textbooks focus more on peripheral concepts and generally tend to identify fewer relationships among more concepts than biology textbooks, which emphasise core concepts and tend to highlight more relationships among fewer concepts. Jointly, Studies I and II reveal four facets of teaching and learning protein synthesis. By acknowledging the results reported herein, teaching can improve the facilitation and reduce the hindrance in learning protein synthesis through the awareness of the domain-specific language usage.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstads universitet: Karlstads universitet, 2019. , p. 71
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2019:3
Keywords [en]
Concepual demography, context, protein synthesis, upper secondary education
National Category
Chemical Sciences
Research subject
Chemistry
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-70684ISBN: 978-91-7063-834-3 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7063-975-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-70684DiVA, id: diva2:1276806
Presentation
2019-02-22, Fryxellsalen, 1B 306, Karlstads universitet, Universitetsgatan 2, Karlstad, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Hasselblad FoundationAvailable from: 2019-02-01 Created: 2019-01-09 Last updated: 2019-02-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Clusters of concepts in molecular genetics: a study of Swedish upper secondary science students understanding
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Clusters of concepts in molecular genetics: a study of Swedish upper secondary science students understanding
2013 (English)In: Journal of Biological Education, ISSN 0021-9266, E-ISSN 2157-6009, Vol. 47, no 2, p. 73-83Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

To understand genetics, students need to be able to explain and draw connections between a large number of concepts. The purpose of the study reported herein was to explore the way upper secondary science students reason about concepts in molecular genetics in order to understand protein synthesis. Data were collected by group interviews. Concept maps were constructed using the interview transcripts, and analysed. The most central concept was DNA, which served as a link between the concepts of genes and proteins. Students spontaneously introduced concepts from classical genetics to explain molecular genetics. The concept maps generated from the different group interviews were similar in that various concepts consistently appeared within specific subgroups of interconnected concepts, ie clusters. Five main clusters were identified. The students were better able to relate between concepts within a cluster than between concepts in different clusters. The clusters can be seen as representations of the students’ knowledge structures, and could be used as starting points in teaching genetics.

We recommend that courses in genetics should begin by focusing on students’ existing connections between concepts from different clusters and then point out concepts that feature in two or more clusters such as DNA, gene, and protein.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2013
Keywords
concept map; genetics; protein synthesis; students’ conceptual understanding; upper
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-15468 (URN)10.1080/00219266.2012.716785 (DOI)000319722600002 ()
Note

Version of record first published: 13 Sep 2012.

Available from: 2012-11-09 Created: 2012-11-09 Last updated: 2019-01-09Bibliographically approved
2. Conceptual Demography in Upper Secondary Chemistry and Biology Textbooks' Descriptions of Protein Synthesis: A Matter of Context?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Conceptual Demography in Upper Secondary Chemistry and Biology Textbooks' Descriptions of Protein Synthesis: A Matter of Context?
2018 (English)In: CBE - Life Sciences Education, ISSN 1931-7913, E-ISSN 1931-7913, Vol. 17, no 3Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study investigates how the domain-specific language of molecular life science is mediated by the comparative contexts of chemistry and biology education. We study upper secondary chemistry and biology textbook sections on protein synthesis to reveal the conceptual demography of concepts central to the communication of this subject. The term "conceptual demography" refers to the frequency, distribution, and internal relationships between technical terms mediating a potential conceptual meaning of a phenomenon. Data were collected through a content analysis approach inspired by text summarization and text mining techniques. Chemistry textbooks were found to present protein synthesis using a mechanistic approach, whereas biology textbooks use a conceptual approach. The chemistry texts make no clear distinction between core terms and peripheral terms but use them equally frequently and give equal attention to all relationships, whereas biology textbooks focus on core terms and mention and relate them to each other more frequently than peripheral terms. Moreover, chemistry textbooks typically segment the text, focusing on a couple of technical terms at a time, whereas biology textbooks focus on overarching structures of the protein synthesis. We argue that it might be fruitful for students to learn protein synthesis from both contexts to build a meaningful understanding.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bethesda, MD: American Society for Cell Biology, 2018
Keywords
Molecular-genetics, students understandings, cognitive-processes, school textbooks, landscape model, teachers talk, education, science, comprehension, biochemistry
National Category
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Didactics
Research subject
Biology; Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-69475 (URN)10.1187/cbe.17-12-0274 (DOI)000443850200015 ()30183569 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2018-10-04 Created: 2018-10-04 Last updated: 2019-01-09Bibliographically approved

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Wahlberg, Sara

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