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Science versus School-science: Multiple models in genetics - The depiction of gene function in upper secondary textbooks and its influence on students' understanding
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Biology. (Avdelningen för biologi)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8735-2102
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this thesis I describe a study of how the science of genetics is transformed into school science in upper secondary level textbooks and the impact that this transformation has on students’ understanding. The didactic challenge that we face is to decide which science from the academic disciplines we should bring into schools.   Using the History and Philosophy of Science as my point of reference, I identified and categorized five multiple historical models of gene function: the Mendelian model, the classical model, the biochemical-classical model, the neoclassical model and the modern model. I then developed a research instrument to be used to analyse how these models are transformed within the educational system via textbooks. Biology and chemistry textbooks from Sweden, as well as a number from English speaking countries, were studied. The models used to describe gene function in the textbooks were investigated, as were the conceptual changes between the actual models and the way they are presented in textbooks. Finally I studied how the transformed science in textbooks is understood by students.   I found that all the multiple historical models were used implicitly in the textbooks. The older historical models were presented more frequently, resulting in a simplified and deterministic description of genetics. Throughout the textbooks a specific model was usually described in a particular subject matter context. The models used in the textbooks were usually hybrid models consisting of features from several of the historical models, thus creating incommensurability. The textbooks do not provide any epistemological foundations to facilitate readers’ understanding of the implications of multiple models. Furthermore my results show that, when reading the textbooks, students’ have difficulties in detecting the use of multiple models, incommensurability, and the conceptual changes that occur in a content-specific context such as gene function. Overall, students’ understanding of the use of multiple models, conceptual change, and incommensurability reflects the way in which they are depicted in the textbooks. Students’ domain-specific difficulties in understanding genetics might therefore be due to the way science is transformed into school science.     These findings indicate the importance of epistemological aspects in the transformation of science into school science, i.e. science as a way of knowing, not only for students’ understanding of the nature of science, but also for their understanding of the conceptual knowledge. The degree to which school science should mimic the academic discipline, as well as an understanding of what is lost in the transformation of science into school science, are key issues discussed in the thesis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet , 2009. , p. 82
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2008:47
Keywords [en]
conceptual change, genetics, history of science, models, nature of science, students’ understanding, textbooks, upper secondary school
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-3177ISBN: 978-91-7063-205-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-3177DiVA, id: diva2:128104
Public defence
2009-02-06, Ljungbergsalen, 21A 244, Karlstads universitet, Universitetsgatan 2, Karlstad, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-01-22 Created: 2008-12-12 Last updated: 2018-06-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Definition of historical models of gene function and their relation to students' understanding of genetics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Definition of historical models of gene function and their relation to students' understanding of genetics
2007 (English)In: Science & Education, ISSN 0926-7220, E-ISSN 1573-1901, Vol. 16, no 7-8, p. 849-881Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Models are often used when teaching science. In this paper historical models and students’ ideas about genetics are compared. The historical development of the scientific idea of the gene and its function is described and categorized into five historical models of gene function. Differences and similarities between these historical models are made explicit. Internal and external consistency problems between the models are identified and discussed. From the consistency analysis seven epistemological features are identified. The features vary in such ways between the historical models that it is claimed that learning difficulties might be the consequence if these features are not explicitly addressed when teaching genetics. Students’ understanding of genetics, as described in science education literature, is then examined. The comparison shows extensive parallelism between students’ alternative understanding of genetics and the epistemological features, i.e., the claim is strengthened. It is also argued that, when teaching gene function, the outlined historical models could be useful in a combined nature of science and history of science approach. Our findings also raise the question what to teach in relation to preferred learning outcomes in genetics.

Keywords
Epistemology, Gene, Gene function, Genetics, Historical models, History of science, Models, Nature of science, Students’ understanding of genetics
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-3203 (URN)10.1007/s11191-006-9064-4 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-12-18 Created: 2008-12-18 Last updated: 2018-06-04Bibliographically approved
2. Conceptual Incoherence as a Result of the use of Multiple Historical Models in School Textbooks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Conceptual Incoherence as a Result of the use of Multiple Historical Models in School Textbooks
2010 (English)In: Research in science education, ISSN 0157-244X, E-ISSN 1573-1898, Vol. 40, no 4, p. 605-623Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the occurrence of conceptual incoherence in upper secondary school textbooks resulting from the use of multiple historical models. Swedish biology and chemistry textbooks, as well as a selection of books from English speaking countries, were examined. The purpose of the study was to identify which models are used to represent the phenomenon of gene function in textbooks and to investigate how these models relate to historical scientific models and subject matter contexts. Models constructed for specific use in textbooks were identified using concept mapping. The data were further analyzed by content analysis. The study shows that several different historical models are used in parallel in textbooks to describe gene function. Certain historical models were used more often then others and the most recent scientific views were rarely referred to in the textbooks. Hybrid models were used frequently, i.e. most of the models in the textbooks consisted of a number of components of several historical models. Since the various historical models were developed as part of different scientific frameworks, hybrid models exhibit conceptual incoherence, which may be a source of confusion for students. Furthermore, the use of different historical models was linked to particular subject contexts in the textbooks studied. The results from Swedish and international textbooks were similar, indicating the general applicability of our conclusions.

National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-3204 (URN)10.1007/s11165-009-9136-y (DOI)
Available from: 2008-12-18 Created: 2008-12-18 Last updated: 2018-06-04Bibliographically approved
3. Conceptual Variation in the Depiction of Gene Function in Upper Secondary School Textbooks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Conceptual Variation in the Depiction of Gene Function in Upper Secondary School Textbooks
2010 (English)In: Science & Education, ISSN 0926-7220, E-ISSN 1573-1901, Vol. 19, no 10, p. 963-994Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper explores conceptual variation in the depiction of gene function in upper secondary school textbooks. Historically, concepts in genetics have developed in various scientific frameworks, which has led to a level of incommensurability as concepts have changed over time within their respective frameworks. Since students may have difficulties in understanding concepts where there is implicit variation in descriptions of the same phenomena, we have developed a concept mapping instrument and applied it to study the gene function concepts in biology and chemistry textbooks that are widely used in Sweden, and others used in a selection of English speaking countries. The data were then further examined using content analysis. In the present paper we describe the conceptual variation of gene function as it is presented in the textbooks, and analyze the ways in which students’ understanding may be influenced. We conclude that it may be difficult for students to gain a modern, process-oriented understanding of gene function if textbooks are used as foundations for the planning and execution of lessons.

National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-3205 (URN)10.1007/s11191-010-9262-y (DOI)
Note

Vid tidpunkten för utgivningen av Niklas Gerickes doktorsavhandling (2009), hade artikeln titeln: The conceptual variation in the depiction of gene function in upper secondary textbooks and its possible influence on students' understanding

Available from: 2008-12-18 Created: 2008-12-18 Last updated: 2018-06-04Bibliographically approved
4. Upper secondary students’ understanding of the use of multiple models in biology textbooks: The importance of conceptual variation and incommensurability
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Upper secondary students’ understanding of the use of multiple models in biology textbooks: The importance of conceptual variation and incommensurability
2013 (English)In: Research in science education, ISSN 0157-244X, E-ISSN 1573-1898, Vol. 43, no 2, p. 755-780Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this study we investigate students' ability to discern conceptual variation and the use of multiple models in genetics when reading content-specific excerpts from biology textbooks. Using the history and philosophy of science as our reference, we were able to develop a research instrument allowing students themselves to investigate the occurrence of multiple models and conceptual variation in Swedish uppersecondary textbooks. Two excerpts using different models of gene function were selected from authentic textbooks. Students were given the same questionnaire-instrument after reading the two texts, and the results were compared. In this way the students themselves made a classification of the texts which could then be compared with the researchers' classification of the texts. Forty-one upper secondary students aged 18-19 participated in the study. Nine of the students also participated in semi-structured interviews. Students recognized the existence of multiple models in a general way, but had difficulty discerning the different models and the conceptual variation that occurs between them in the texts. Further they did not recognize the occurrence of incommensurability between multiple models. Students had difficulty in transforming their general knowledge of multiple models into an understanding of content specific models of gene function in the textbooks. These findings may have implications for students'understanding of conceptual knowledge because research has established textbooks as one of the most influential aspects in the planning and execution of biology lessons, and teachers commonly assign reading passages to their students without further explanation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2013
Keywords
Conceptual variation, Genetics, Models, Students conceptual understanding, Textbooks, Upper secondary school
National Category
Biological Sciences Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-3206 (URN)10.1007/s11165-012-9288-z (DOI)000316876500015 ()
Available from: 2008-12-18 Created: 2008-12-18 Last updated: 2018-06-04Bibliographically approved

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