Global citizenship education in the biology classroom: an exploratory study in Scotland

Margiotta, Renato (2018) Global citizenship education in the biology classroom: an exploratory study in Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In the United Kingdom and Europe, there are ongoing efforts to reform science education in order to provide students with an understanding that transcends the scientific knowledge itself and that is relevant to citizenship. This exploratory study investigated the opportunities and the constraints for teaching Evolutionary Biology (EB) in the context of Global Citizenship Education (GCE). The study focuses on secondary school education in Scotland, at the time of a major curricular reform. My specific interest in the educational system of Scotland stemmed from the fact that the Scottish National Curriculum, the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), encourages integrated interdisciplinary approaches to citizenship education, where biology is one component of a holistic citizenship curriculum and biology teachers are required to consider citizenship issues within their subject teaching.

Evolution, in biology, is the general framework for understanding life and, at its base, is about the common ancestry of living beings. Therefore, EB is substantially the theory of Phylogenetic Trees. In addition, EB with Population Thinking in taxonomy provides arguments against the typologist assumptions in human classification, underpinning the biologisation of cultural identities.

Through a document analysis and an empirical phenomenographic study, I explored the patterns in the interplay between teaching EB and GCE, within the compulsory Scottish secondary school science curriculum. The document analysis, which consisted in the analysis of official science education documents and biology textbooks, revealed that only microevolutionary concepts play a major role in the documents and in the textbooks. Macroevolution, human evolution, phylogeny and population thinking are omitted by the compulsory science specifications of the CfE and textbooks. However, the texts illustrating the EB specifications are open texts, in Eco’s taxonomy. Open texts are incomplete texts that can be freely interpreted and cooperatively generated by the readers. Therefore, teachers, with their knowledge and interests, can complete the “unsaid” and interpret creatively the biology specification.

The phenomenographic inquiry involved twenty-one biology teachers from thirteen different Local Authorities of Scotland who participated in semi-structured, in-depth interviews. From the phenomenographic analysis of the transcripts of the interviews, three different ways of thinking and reporting about the role of teaching biology for the purpose to educate for global citizenship emerged. The first conception relates the biology syllabus to issues of social justice, the second to environmental issues and the third focuses on the individual development of students.

This body of work provides insights into some of the issues associated with the problematic teaching of evolutionary biology with the aim to promote cosmopolitan values, in secondary school. Moreover, it adds to the research in global citizenship education, by providing evidence from the conceptions of biology teachers involved in the implementation of curricular innovation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Evolutionary Biology, evolution, common ancestry , Phylogenetic Trees, Population Thinking, science education, global citizenship, citizenship education, cosmopolitanism, cosmopolitan education, science curriculum, science specifications, Scotland, Curriculum for Excellence, secondary school, Darwin, Darwinism, microevolution, macroevolution, human evolution, human classification, taxonomy, biologisation, cultural identities, document analysis, phenomenography, textbooks, in-depth interviews, curricular innovation.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2361 Curriculum
L Education > LT Textbooks
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QL Zoology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Fagan, Dr. Catherine and Mancy, Dr. Rebecca
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Mr Renato Margiotta
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-9151
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2018 13:03
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2018 15:32

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