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Title: Educational interventions in biology : improving children's understanding of illness
Author: Myant, Katherine A.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis reports three studies about children’s understanding of illness which, according to Siegal and Peterson (1999), is an important area of biological knowledge. The thesis begins with a comprehensive review of the literature and goes on to suggest that children may benefit from interventions to fill the gaps in their knowledge of illness. Following this, specific methodologies were designed for this purpose. Therefore, this thesis reports advances in procedure as well as advances in knowledge. Study 1 reports that children’s understanding of different illness becomes more sophisticated and accurate with age. Specifically, children employed a physical model (e.g., He caught a cold because it was cold) to conceptualise illness and gradually moved to a biological model with age. They also appeared to explain injuries purely in a physical way, and these explanations became more detailed and accurate with age. The results of Study 1 also provided a baseline measure for the subsequent studies, by identifying that children’s understanding of contagious illness as a good candidate for intervention. Study 2 compared three different intervention conditions for improving knowledge of the common cold and chicken pox. These were a group condition plus factual information, a group condition, and an individual condition plus factual information. Measures of two non-contagious illnesses were also taken at pre- and post-test. Only one significant difference was found: the group plus facts condition had higher pre- to post test change scores for cold than the group condition. However, trends in the data indicated that the conditions in which factual information was provided were more successful than those that did not. As well as differences between the intervention conditions, the older age group showed greater pre- to post-test improvement than the younger age group. Additionally, improvements in knowledge did not generalise to non-contagious illnesses. Study 3 built on the findings of Study 2 by further investigating factual information as the chosen intervention method. In this study, factual information was teamed with an individual activity and the comparisons were made between different types of factual information. It was found that factual information that included detailed explanations of biological functions lead to greater improvements in knowledge than factual information that only gave basic facts. Certain age dependent trends first seen in Study 2, were also seen in Study 3: notably, the 11 year age group showed greater improvement than the 7 year olds. Furthermore, the increased understanding of contagion generalised to other contagious illnesses and not just the target of cold and chicken pox.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available