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Title: Conceptual progression in the domain of naïve biology
Author: Ghazali-Mohammed, Z.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8498 4165
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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This study aims to explore children's conceptual development in science. Curricular design is an activity that rests on some fundamental assumptions about the organisation of knowledge and development of understanding. Presently the National Curriculum for England is organised in a manner that assumes sequential learning of scientific concepts: generalised understanding can be developed on the basis of established concepts. However there is a distinct lack of any systematic literature on the processes behind conceptual development. What little research there has been has often shown children's learning to be piecemeal (e.g. diSessa, 1993). Therefore questions into how the mind and cognitive schemata are organised cannot be fully answered without first exploring the potential processes behind conceptual change and above all the ways in which related concepts are coordinated and interlinked, something that has rarely been the focus of psychological investigation. The present study explores young children's (aged 4-11) ideas about biological phenomena in an effort to understand conceptual development using a triple-cohort longitudinal design. Children were recruited into 3 cohorts spanning the primary age-range and followed-up a year later so that a putative developmental trajectory relating to the understanding of biological concepts could be ascertained. Children were assessed using general cognitive and demographic measures. A novel interview method was developed to assess children's biological knowledge. Findings revealed children's understanding to be heavily influenced by biologically-specific language, which may act as a mechanism for conceptual change. It was also found that general cognitive abilities and demographic factors had very little influence on conceptual change in the domain of naïve biology, in contrast to previous research. Finally, children's knowledge appeared to be more theoretical than hypothesised, as related biological concepts were predictive of each other. Given these findings, a new model of conceptual organisation and change is proposed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available