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Understanding photosynthesis and respiration - is it a problem?: eighth graders' written and oral reasoning about photosynthesis and respiration
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5269-1451
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Physics.
2009 (English)In: Science education: Shared issues, common future / [ed] Mijung Kim, Sung Won Hwang & Aik-Ling Tan, Singapore: National Institute of Education , 2009, 1281-1318 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Earlier studies show that students at almost all school levels have difficulties to understand photosynthesis and respiration. However, international evaluations like TIMSS and PISA, present students’ understanding about photosynthesis and respiration without any connection to teaching and classroom context. Our research interest is to see to what extent ecology teaching develops students’ understanding of photosynthesis and respiration and how students can demonstrate their learning in both a written test and a guided interview.

 

Ten weeks of 66 students’ ordinary ecology lessons were observed, their ecology tests were collected and 23 individual interviews were accomplished. The test results were analysed according to three categories of understanding. The interviews were analysed by how the students recalled their subject content knowledge, which rendered three types of reasoning.

 

Both oral and written reasoning confirm a substantial learning, with more knowledge of photosynthesis than respiration. Analyses of test results and understanding as presented in interviews did not always correspond. Students with high scores in test showed problems to make a comprehensive picture of the concepts during interview, and students who tried and managed to connect concepts during the interview scored low in test. The interviews showed the importance of letting students try to explain concepts and to correct themselves. A potato gave both high and low scored students, an aha-reaction and truly satisfaction when they realised that photosynthesis and respiration were something else than a formula.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Singapore: National Institute of Education , 2009. 1281-1318 p.
Keyword [en]
secondary school, photosynthesis, respiration, written test, oral reasoning, ecology teaching
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-32072OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-32072DiVA: diva2:300871
Note

Also Submitted 2009 to JBE (Journal of Biological Education)

Available from: 2010-03-01 Created: 2010-03-01 Last updated: 2015-10-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Teaching photosynthesis in a compulsory school context: Students' reasoning, understanding and interactions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Teaching photosynthesis in a compulsory school context: Students' reasoning, understanding and interactions
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

According to previous research, students show difficulties in understanding photosynthesis and respiration, and basic ecological concepts like energy flow in ecosystems. There are successful teaching units accomplished in this area and many of them can be described as inquiry-based teaching. One definition of inquiry-based teaching is that it involves everything from finding problems, investigating them, debating with peers and trying to explain and give solutions. Accordingly students need to be confronted with challenging questions and empirical data to reason about and teachers need to implement student-generated inquiry discussion since students often stay silent and do not express their thoughts during science lessons. This thesis will focus on young peoples’ understanding of the functioning of plants, students’ participation during biology lessons, and how biology teaching is accomplished in primary and secondary school.

Two school classroom projects focusing on teaching about plants and ecology are described. Four teachers and their 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes plus two science teachers and their three 8th grade classes collaborated. Photosynthesis and respiration were made concrete by using tasks where plants, plant cells, germs, seeds and the gas exchange were used. The aim was to listen to students’ reasoning in both teaching and interview situations. Learning outcome, as described by students’ reasoning in the classrooms and in individual interviews but also by their test results, is especially focused. Student-student and student-teacher interactions have been analysed with an ethnographic approach in the classroom context.

The plant tasks encouraged the students’ in primary school to develop scientific reasoning and the interviews confirmed that the students had learned about photosynthesis. The ecology teaching in secondary school showed a substantial understanding confirmed both by students’ oral and written reasoning. Analyses of test results and understanding as presented in interviews did not always correspond. The interviews showed the importance of letting students try to explain concepts and to correct themselves. Primary students’ reasoning and understanding about photosynthesis were in the interviews almost the same as the secondary students’. The secondary students’ questioning during the lectures showed wonderments and interest for ecology from a broader view than in the content presented by the teachers and the textbooks, but the large classes and disruptive students stole too much time from the teachers’ management in the classroom. Students’ knowledge was underestimated and their interest in ecology faded away.

Abstract [sv]

Tidigare forskning visar att elever har svårigheter att förstå processer som fotosyntes, cellandning och ekologiska samband, såsom energiflöden i ekosystem. Lyckosamma undervisningsprojekt inom det här området kan ofta beskrivas som ”inquiry-based”. Ett sätt att definiera ”inquiry-based” är att det innefattar allt ifrån att hitta problem, undersöka dem, debattera med andra elever och till att försöka förklara och ge lösningar. Utifrån detta visas att elever behöver bli konfronterade med utmanande frågor och empiriska data att resonera utifrån. Lärarna behöver också arbeta med att föra in studentdiskussioner eftersom det visat sig att många elever ofta är tysta och inte uttrycker sina tankar och spekulationer under NO-lektionerna. Den här avhandlingen fokuserar på elevernas förståelse av växternas funktion, elevernas deltagande under biologilektionerna och på hur biologiundervisning genomförs i mellan- och högstadiet.

Två skolprojekt med fokus på växter och ekologi beskrivs. Fyra klasslärare och deras klasser i årskurs 4, 5 och 6, plus två NO-lärare och deras tre klasser i årskurs 8 samarbetade. Fotosyntes och cellandning konkretiserades med hjälp av växter, växtceller, groddar, frön och några gas-utbytesreaktioner. Syftet var att lyssna på vad eleverna resonerade om, både i undervisningssituationer och vid intervju. Elevernas förståelse utifrån deras resonerande men också utifrån deras testresultat fokuserades. Elev-elev- och elev-lärarinteraktioner analyserades med hjälp av en etnografisk ansats i klassrums-kontexten.

Uppgifterna med konkret växtmaterial uppmuntrade mellanstadieeleverna att utveckla ett naturvetenskapligt resonerande och intervjuerna bekräftade att eleverna hade lärt sig om fotosyntes. Ekologiundervisningen på högstadiet resulterade i en påtaglig förståelse, som bekräftades utifrån elevernas muntliga och skriftliga resonerande. Analysen av förståelse visad i provresultat och vid intervju överensstämde inte alltid. Intervjuerna visade betydelsen av att låta eleverna både få förklara begrepp och att rätta sig själva i sina förklaringar. I intervjusituationen visade det sig att mellanstadieelevernas resonerande och förståelse av fotosyntes gott kunde mäta sig med högstadieelevernas. Elevernas sätt att ställa frågor under lektionsgenomgångarna visade på funderingar och ett intresse för ekologi, som hade en större bredd än det innehåll som lärare och lärobok presenterade, men stora klasser och störande elever stal alldeles för mycket av lärarens tid för att det skulle vara möjligt att genomföra bra undervisning i klassrummet. Elevernas kunskaper underskattades och deras intresse tonade bort.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, Institutionen för naturvetenskapernas och matematikens didaktik, 2010. 72 p.
Keyword
teaching, primary and secondary school, plants, photosynthesis and respiration, Undervisning, mellan- och högstadiet, växter, fotosyntes och cellandning
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-32077 (URN)978-91-7264-965-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-03-26, Naturvetarhuset, N320, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-03-05 Created: 2010-03-01 Last updated: 2015-10-27Bibliographically approved

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