Learning difficulties in genetics and the development of related attitudes in Taiwanese junior high schools

Chu, Yu-Chien (2008) Learning difficulties in genetics and the development of related attitudes in Taiwanese junior high schools. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study seeks to explore the problems of genetics learning and to identify possible ways forward. The work was carried out at junior high school level in Taiwan.

Genetics is often thought of as a subject or a topic in biology that is difficult to learn and understand, especially for novices. A review of literature on learning difficulties in genetics is provided to explore the nature of the difficulties, with likely explanations for the difficulties observed.

Undoubtedly, many would acknowledge that genetics is an important subject to learn in these days and age where its applications are ubiquitous and even the cause of many debates. However, due to the nature of the subject matter and the way learning processes occur and, possibly, the way it is being taught, the understanding of genetics ideas of the majority of students is thought to be very poor and full of confusions and alternative views.

Thus, the overall aim of this study is to explore learning difficulties and problems in genetics and then to develop and test ways by which the situation might be improved. The research for this thesis was carried out in three stages.

In the first stage, the adolescent learners’ preconceptions about genetics were explored before they move to the formal course. The result indicated that the essential foundational concepts, such as structure and function of cells and its organelles, cell divisions (mitosis and meiosis), reproduction, and basic mathematical requirements and the concept of probability, are generally vague and misconceptions are widespread.

In the second stage, factors that might affect the learning of genetics for adolescent learners were investigated. The factors were prior knowledge related to genetics and the effects of the limitation of learners’ psychological characteristics (namely, perceptual fields or the degree of field dependence and the working memory space). Results showed that students’ performance in genetics examination revealed a significant correlation with their prior knowledge, the working memory capacity and the degree of field dependence.

Based on the findings from the first and second stage of the research, a set of teaching material of genetics course for the first year of junior high school students was developed in the third stage. The teaching material was deliberately constructed not only to minimise demands on the working memory, but also to encourage attitude development. The performance of students was found to be significantly better than for those who had been taught by the traditional approaches. Numerous comparisons of attitudes between the two groups revealed that attitudes of social awareness as well as attitudes towards aspects of the learning processes involved were more positive for those who had used the new materials

It should be pointed out that all conclusions derived from this study must be treated tentatively. Inevitably, any new approach will have a novelty factor which may enhance performance. Nonetheless, the evidence taken together does support the hypothesis that learning arranged in line with information processing insights is more effective. In addition, the strategies used were designed in line with understandings of the ways attitudes develop and the effectiveness of these approaches has been demonstrated. Overall, the study has highlighted several problems and, on the basis of the evidence obtained, suggests possible ways forward for a better approach to genetics learning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: genetics learning, learning difficulties, attitudes development, teaching approach
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2361 Curriculum
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Reid, Professor Norman
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Mrs Yu-Chien Chu
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-168
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2008
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:16
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/168

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