Concept Development In Relation To The Biology Of Reproduction In Secondary Science : A Vygotskyan Perspective

McAnulty, John (2003). Concept Development In Relation To The Biology Of Reproduction In Secondary Science : A Vygotskyan Perspective. EdD thesis The Open University.



The study of concept development in biology comes from a professional concern that arose in my classroom teaching - an inability, after many years practice of the techniques of ‘discovery science’, to accept the theoretical base of the individual secondary school pupil constructing science concepts mainly through experiment. From this concern arose my research question - the extent to which a developmental space could be defined in which the development of science concepts could take place. The instance for examining such a space would be science concepts of reproduction. To develop a model for such a space I looked at the work of Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky and a number of other theorists concerned with the issue of innate learning mechanisms and of constructivism and social constructivism. I adopted Vygotsky’s dialectical materialist approach in assessing the concepts involved. To test the emerging model I decided on a case study approach, defined in terms of both the case as instance and the case as issue - instance in that the focus would be a year 8 (Britain year 7) science class, with interviews across the year group The study would involve the case as issue in that I intended to walk through the process of concept formation in plant and human reproduction with the pupils. I applied a mixture of semi-structured interview and classroom observation, linked through the development of ‘structured situations’ in which models and materials were made available in specific social settings in the expectation that the pupils would construct meaning. The outcome of the investigation did not support the initial model, but it did suggest in outline a new model of a developmental space. This suggested that the different goals of teacher and pupils expressed themselves as implicit and explicit elements of the situation, often resolved by the pupils completing tasks without thought. This indicated that a common outcome of schooling was ‘encapsulation’, formal mental constructs lacking meaning. Elements of a new model would be the role of emotion and of the goal of activity.

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