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Definition of historical models of gene function and their relation to students' understanding of genetics
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Biology. (Avdelningen för biologi)
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Biology. (Avdelningen för biologi)
2007 (English)In: Science & Education, ISSN 0926-7220, E-ISSN 1573-1901, Vol. 16, no 7-8, 849-881 p.Article 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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 16, no 7-8, 849-881 p.
Keyword [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-3203DOI: 10.1007/s11191-006-9064-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-3203DiVA: diva2:132452
Available from: 2008-12-18 Created: 2008-12-18 Last updated: 2014-01-09Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Science versus School-science: Multiple models in genetics - The depiction of gene function in upper secondary textbooks and its influence on students' understanding
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Science versus School-science: Multiple models in genetics - The depiction of gene function in upper secondary textbooks and its influence on students' understanding
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. 82 p.
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2008:47
Keyword
conceptual change, genetics, history of science, models, nature of science, students’ understanding, textbooks, upper secondary school
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-3177 (URN)978-91-7063-205-1 (ISBN)
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: 2011-10-25Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
  • apa
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