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Teaching photosynthesis in a compulsory school context: Students' reasoning, understanding and interactions
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.
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 [en]
teaching, primary and secondary school, plants, photosynthesis and respiration
Keyword [sv]
Undervisning, mellan- och högstadiet, växter, fotosyntes och cellandning
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-32077ISBN: 978-91-7264-965-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-32077DiVA: diva2:300885
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
List of papers
1. Student reasoning while investigating plant material
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Student reasoning while investigating plant material
2008 (English)In: NorDiNa: Nordic Studies in Science Education, ISSN 1504-4556, E-ISSN 1894-1257, Vol. 4, no 2, 177-191 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this project, 10-12 year old students investigated plant material to learn more about plants and photosynthesis. The research study was conducted to reveal the students’ scientific reasoning during their investigation and also to establish what they already knew, what they wanted to know, and what they actually learned about plants and photosynthesis. The eleven different tasks helped students investigate plant anatomy, plant physiology, and the gases involved in photosynthesis and respiration. The study was carried out in the ordinary classrooms. The collected data consisted of audio-taped discussions, students’ notebooks, and field notes. Students’ discussions and written work, during the different plant tasks, were analysed to see how the students’ learning and understanding processes developed. The analysis is descriptive and categorised from a modified general typology of student’s epistemological reasoning. The study shows students’ level of interest in doing the tasks, their struggle with new words and concepts, and how they develop their knowledge about plant physiology. The study confirms that students, in this age group, develop understanding and show an interest in complicated processes in natural science, e.g. photosynthesis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oslo och Göteborg: , 2008
Keyword
primary school, photosynthesis, reasoning, plant tasks, mellanstadiet, fotosyntes, uppgifter om växter, elevresonemang
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-32069 (URN)
Note
http://www.naturfagsenteret.no/tidsskrift/Nordina_208_Naes_ottander.pdfAvailable from: 2010-03-01 Created: 2010-03-01 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
2. The space shuttle: an introduction to ecology teaching
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The space shuttle: an introduction to ecology teaching
2009 (English)In: The nature of research in biological education: Old and new perspectives on theoretical and methodological issues / [ed] Marcus Hammann, Arend Jan Waarlo & Kerst Boersma, Utrecht, The Netherlands: CD-beta Press , 2009, 297-311 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

New ways of teaching ecology are needed since teenagers do not find concepts such as food webs interesting. Inquiry-based teaching is suggested to increase the interest in science. This study has an ethnographic approach and three classes of eight graders, 70 students, were observed during two weeks of work with the inquiry-based Space Shuttle task. The classroom atmosphere and teaching situations were rendered by means of thick descriptions. Students’ reasoning was categorised and analysed. 23 audio-taped student interviews were conducted and partly used. The findings show the complex problems in teaching and learning situations that appear during inquiry-based work in a classroom environment. The working atmosphere differed from noisy to calm. Students’ curiosity, level of attainments and interest made them use three levels of reasoning in the first 40 minutes. A learning process about complexity in ecosystems started but little improvement in concept knowledge was achieved. The task encircles students’ knowledge and entices them into ecological thinking and reasoning. The teachers did classroom management and did not have time to listen and support. The students, but not the teachers, were satisfied with the task’s result. The task’s potential in ecology teaching and students’ opportunities to learn will be discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Utrecht, The Netherlands: CD-beta Press, 2009
Keyword
ecology teaching, inquiry-based task, students' reasoning
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-32070 (URN)
Conference
ERIDOB 2008.Seventh conference of European researchers in didactics of biology,at Utrecht University, 16th - 20th September 2008.
Note
Also Submitted, 2009 to EJSE (Electronic Journal of Science Education)Available from: 2010-03-01 Created: 2010-03-01 Last updated: 2015-10-27Bibliographically approved
3. What is going on in a classroom during ecology lessons?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>What is going on in a classroom during ecology lessons?
(English)In: Journal of Research in Science Teaching, ISSN 0022-4308, E-ISSN 1098-2736Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Keyword
ecology teaching, classroom context, student-teacher interactions
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-32076 (URN)
Available from: 2010-03-01 Created: 2010-03-01 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
4. Understanding photosynthesis and respiration - is it a problem?: eighth graders' written and oral reasoning about photosynthesis and respiration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Understanding photosynthesis and respiration - is it a problem?: eighth graders' written and oral reasoning about photosynthesis and respiration
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
Keyword
secondary school, photosynthesis, respiration, written test, oral reasoning, ecology teaching
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
didactics of natural science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-32072 (URN)
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

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Citation style
  • apa
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  • en-GB
  • en-US
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  • nn-NO
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  • Other locale
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Output format
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  • asciidoc
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