Investigation of biology students' cognitive structure through word association tests, mind maps and structural communication grids

Bahar, Mehmet (1999) Investigation of biology students' cognitive structure through word association tests, mind maps and structural communication grids. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The primary aim of this research study was to investigate the cognitive structure (i.e. the relationship between concepts in mind) of biology students/pupils. Three techniques, namely Word Association Tests (in the topic "Genetics"), Mind Maps (in the topic "Seed Structure") and Structural Communication Grids (in the topics "Food Digestion, Chemistry of Respiration and Haemophilia") were used for this purpose. Furthermore, it was also planned to investigate the effect of some psychological factors (i.e. Field Dependence/Field Independence, Convergence/Divergence and Working Memory Capacity) on the relationship between concepts in students' long term memory as well as to reveal the relationship between these three psychological factors. 101 pupils at Higher Grade Biology (age 16-17) from four different secondary schools in the Central Belt of Scotland and around 400 first year biology students in Glasgow University have participated in this research. The results of the word association test (WAT) showed that students generated many ideas related to given key words. However, the results of both maps (in order to map the structures, relatedness coefficient values and response frequencies were used) clearly revealed that the ideas about genetics clustered as only a few isolated islands in students' cognitive structure and they did not appear to see the overall picture as a network of related ideas. In terms of the relationship between psychological factors and the WAT, only the Convergence/Divergence thinking style showed a significant relationship with the WAT. That is, students who had divergent thinking style gave a larger total number of responses and a wider range of responses to the key words in the WAT than the students who had convergent thinking style. Mind maps were used in this research study as an alternative to a linear way of planning essay writing and also to gain an insight into students' ideas lodged in cognitive structure. The results showed that there was a statistically significant difference (in favour of mind mappers) between essay (on Seed Germination) marks of mind mappers and non-mind mappers. A statistically significant correlation between mind map scores and essay scores also appeared, indicating that students who drew better mind maps, had higher scores in essays. The examination of mind maps and the essays of the students also revealed that some students did not mention the same major ideas in their maps and in their essays. In addition, some misconceptions appeared in the students' mind maps as well as in their essays. In terms of the effect of psychological factors on mind mapping (only Convergence/Divergence thinking styles were examined), the mind maps of divergent students were more complex and branched than those of convergent students. For the secondary schools, the results of Structural Communication Grids (SCG) showed that pupils had misconceptions about the topics of "Food Digestion and the Chemistry of Respiration." SCG were also used as an evaluation tool for the first year biology students on the topic "Haemophilia." The effect of some psychological factors (i.e. Field Dependence/Field Independence and Convergence/Divergence) were also examined. The results revealed that overall performance of the field independent pupils in the grids was better than field dependent pupils. Pupils/students who had a divergent thinking style had higher scores than the pupils/students who had a convergent thinking style on grid questions. All results of these three techniques (i.e. word association tests, mind maps and structural communication grids) showed that they are very effective as diagnostic tools to illuminate the relationship between ideas in the long term memory of the students/pupils. Structural communication grids are also effective assessment tools. Implications for using these three techniques in the classroom as well as a self instructional method for students and as a supplement to the exams are also discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Johnstone, Prof. Alex H. and Hansell, Dr. Mike H.
Date of Award: 1999
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1999-39028
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2018 11:24
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 13:23
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.39028

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