, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 605-623
Date: 18 Aug 2009

Conceptual Incoherence as a Result of the use of Multiple Historical Models in School Textbooks

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Abstract

This paper explores the occurrence of conceptual incoherence in upper secondary school textbooks resulting from the use of multiple historical models. Swedish biology and chemistry textbooks, as well as a selection of books from English speaking countries, were examined. The purpose of the study was to identify which models are used to represent the phenomenon of gene function in textbooks and to investigate how these models relate to historical scientific models and subject matter contexts. Models constructed for specific use in textbooks were identified using concept mapping. The data were further analyzed by content analysis. The study shows that several different historical models are used in parallel in textbooks to describe gene function. Certain historical models were used more often then others and the most recent scientific views were rarely referred to in the textbooks. Hybrid models were used frequently, i.e. most of the models in the textbooks consisted of a number of components of several historical models. Since the various historical models were developed as part of different scientific frameworks, hybrid models exhibit conceptual incoherence, which may be a source of confusion for students. Furthermore, the use of different historical models was linked to particular subject contexts in the textbooks studied. The results from Swedish and international textbooks were similar, indicating the general applicability of our conclusions.