Skip to main content

Promoting the Understanding of Photosynthesis Among Elementary School Student Teachers Through Text Design

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate elementary school pre-service teachers’ understanding of photosynthesis and to examine if a refutational text can support understanding of photosynthesis better than a non-refutational text. A total of 91 elementary school pre-service teachers read either a refutational or a non-refutational text concerning photosynthesis and then answered open-ended questions. Our results indicate that there are critical problems associated with student teachers learning about the process of photosynthesis, even after it has been systematically taught in teacher education. However, the results positively indicate that refutational science texts seem to foster effective conceptual change among student teachers. The results interestingly showed that students who read a refutational text improved their systemic and factual understanding of photosynthesis more than did those who read a non-refutational text. Especially students who had naïve prior understanding regarding photosynthesis benefitted more from a refutational text. Thus, a refutational text may act as an effective facilitator of conceptual change. These results have implications for teacher education, where conceptual mastery of the most important science phenomena, such as photosynthesis, should be achieved. A refutational text is an easy and effective way to support conceptual change in higher education. Thus, this study highlights the importance of domain-specific science education in teacher programmes.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Notes

  1. 1.

    The researchers were present at the data-collection sessions. However, they were not involved in the instructions given in the course.

  2. 2.

    The analysis tool was constructed by the first author, a biologist.

References

  1. Ahopelto, I., Mikkilä-Erdmann, M., Anto, E., & Penttinen, M. (2011). Future elementary school teachers’ conceptual change concerning photosynthesis. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 55(5), 503–515.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Alvermann, D. E., & Hynd, C. R. (1989). Effects of prior knowledge activation modes and text structure on nonscience majors’ comprehension of physics. Journal of Educational Research, 83, 97–102.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Ausubel, D. P. (1968). Educational psychology: A cognitive view. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Barak, J., Sheva, B., & Gorodetsky, M. (1999). As ‘process’ as it can get: Students’ understanding of biological processes. International Journal of Science Education, 21(12), 1281–1292.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Broughton, S. H., Sinatra, G. M., & Reynolds, R. E. (2010). The nature of the refutation text effect: An investigation of attention allocation. Journal of Educational Research, 103, 407–423.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Brown, M. H., & Schwartz, R. S. (2009). Connecting photosynthesis and cellular respiration: Preservice teachers’ conceptions. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(7), 791–812.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Carlsson, B. (2002). Ecological understanding 1: Ways of experiencing photosynthesis. International Journal of Science Education, 24(7), 681–699.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chambliss, M. J., & Calfee, R. C. (1998). Textbooks for learning. Nurturing children’s minds. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Chinn, C. A., & Brewer, W. F. (1993). The role of anomalous data in knowledge acquisition: A theoretical framework and implications for science instruction. Review of Educational Research, 63, 1–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Diakidoy, I.-A., Mouskounti, T., & Ioannides, C. (2011). Comprehension and learning from refutation and expository texts. Reading Research Quarterly, 46(1), 22–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. diSessa, A. A. (2006). A history of conceptual change research. Threads and fault lines. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 265–281). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Duit, R. (1999). Conceptual change approaches in science education. In W. Schnotz, S. Vosniadou, & M. Carretero (Eds.), New perspectives on conceptual change (pp. 263–282). Amsterdam: Pergamon.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Duit, R. (2009). Conceptual changeStill a powerful framework for improving the practice of science instruction. Keynote speech at the International Science Education Conference, Singapore. http://www.nsse.nie.edu.sg/isec2009/downloads/ISEC2009_Keynote_Reinder_Duit.pdf. Accessed 21 February 2012.

  14. Duit, R., & Treagust, D. F. (2003). Conceptual change: A powerful framework for improving science teaching and learning. International Journal of Science Education, 25, 671–688.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Duit, R., Treagust, D. F., & Widodo, A. (2008). Teaching science for conceptual change: Theory and practice. In S. Vosniadou (Ed.), International handbook of research on conceptual change (pp. 629–646). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Guzzetti, B. J., Snyder, T. E., Glass, G. V., & Gamas, W. W. (1993). Promoting conceptual change in science: A comparative meta-analysis of interventions from reading education and science education. Reading Research Quarterly, 28, 116–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Guzzetti, B. J., Williams, W. O., Skeels, S. A., & Wu, S. M. (1997). Influence of text structure on learning counterintuitive physics concepts. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34(7), 701–719.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hynd, C. R. (2001). Refutational texts and the change process. International Journal of Educational Research, 35, 699–714.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1983). Mental models. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Käpylä, M., Heikkinen, J.-P., & Asunta, T. (2009). Influence of content knowledge on pedagogical content knowledge: The case of teaching photosynthesis and plant growth. International Journal of Science Education, 31(10), 1395–1415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Kendeou, P., & van den Broek, P. (2007). The effects of prior knowledge and text structure on comprehension processes during reading of scientific texts. Memory & Cognition, 35, 1567–1577.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kinchin, I. (2000a). Concept mapping in biology. Journal of Biological Education, 34(2), 61–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Kinchin, I. (2000b). Confronting problems presented by photosynthesis. School Science Review, 81(297), 69–75.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Kintsch, W. (1986). Learning from text. Cognition and instruction (pp. 87–108). Hillside, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kintsch, W. (1988). The role of knowledge in discourse comprehension: A construction integration model. Psychological Review, 95, 163–182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Limón, M., & Mason, L. (2002). Prologue. In M. Limón & L. Mason (Eds.), Reconsidering conceptual change. Issues in theory and practice (pp. xv–xx). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  27. Maria, K. (2000). Conceptual change instruction: A social constructivist perspective. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 16, 5–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Mason, L., Gava, M., & Boldrin, A. (2008). On warm conceptual change: The interplay of text, epistemological beliefs, and topic interest. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 291–309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Mayr, E. (1997). This is biology: The science of the living world. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Mikkilä-Erdmann, M. (2001). Improving conceptual change concerning photosynthesis through text design. Learning and Instruction, 11, 241–257.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Mikkilä-Erdmann, M. (2002). Science learning through text: The effect of text design and text comprehension skills on conceptual change. In L. Mason & M. Limon (Eds.), Reframing the processes of conceptual change: Integrating theory and practice (pp. 337–353). Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer.

  32. Mikkilä, M., & Olkinuora, E. (1995). Oppikirjat ja oppiminen [Textbooks and learning]. Oppimistutkimuksen keskuksen julkaisuja 4. Turku, Finland: University of Turku.

  33. Mikkilä-Erdmann, M., Penttinen, M., Anto, E., & Olkinuora, E. (2008). Constructing mental models during learning from science text. In D. Ifenthaler, P. Pirnay-Dummer, & J. M. Spector (Eds.), Understanding models for learning and instruction. Essays in honor of Norbert M. Seel (pp. 63–79). New York: Springer.

  34. Mintzes, J. J., & Wandersee, J. H. (2005). Research in science teaching and learning: A human constructivist view. In J. J. Mintzes, J. H. Wandersee, & J. D. Novak (Eds.), Teaching science for understanding: A human constructivist view (pp. 59–92). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  35. Nesbit, J. C., & Adesope, O. O. (2006). Learning with concept and knowledge maps: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 76(3), 413–448.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Novak, J. D., & Cañas, A. J. (2006). The origins of the concept mapping tool and the continuing evolution of the tool. Information Visualization Journal, 5(3), 175–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Penttinen, M., Anto, E., & Mikkilä-Erdmann, M. (2012). Conceptual change, text comprehension, and eye movements during reading. Research in Science Education. doi:10.1007/s11165-012-9313-2.

  38. Pfundt, H., & Duit, R. (1991). Bibliography: Students’ alternative frameworks and science education (3rd ed.). Kiel: IPN-Kiel.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Posner, G., Strike, K., Hewson, P., & Gertzog, W. (1982). Accommodation of a scientific conception: Toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education, 66, 211–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Ratinen, I. (2013). Primary student-teachers’ conceptual understanding of the greenhouse effect: A mixed method study. International Journal of Science Education, 35(6), 929–955.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Ross, P., Tronson, D., & Ritchie, R. J. (2005). Modelling photosynthesis to increase conceptual understanding. Journal of Biological Education, 40, 84–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Roth, K. (1990). Developing meaningful conceptual understanding in science. In B. Jones & L. Idol (Eds.), Dimensions of thinking and cognitive instruction (pp. 139–175). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Sinatra, G., & Mason, L. (2008). Beyond knowledge: Learner characteristics influencing conceptual change. In S. Vosniadou (Ed.), International handbook on conceptual change research (pp. 560–582). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Tippett, C. (2010). Refutation text in science education: A review of two decades of research. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 8(6), 951–970.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Tullberg, A., Strödahl, H., & Lybeck, L. (1994). Students’ conceptions of 1 mole and educators’ conceptions of how they teach ‘the mole’. International Journal of Science Education, 16, 145–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. van Dijk, T. A., & Kintsch, W. (1983). Strategies of discourse comprehension. New York: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Vosniadou, S. (1994). Capturing and modeling the process of conceptual change. Learning and Instruction, 4, 45–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Vosniadou, S., Vamvakoussi, X., & Skopeliti, I. (2008). The framework theory approach to the problem of conceptual change. In S. Vosniadou (Ed.), International handbook of research on conceptual change (pp. 3–34). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Wellington, J., & Osborne, J. (2009). Language and literacy in science education. Glasgow: Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the Academy of Finland for the financial support for the LeMEd-project, 128892 and lecturer Jorma Immonen from the Department of Teacher Education in the University of Turku for co-operation.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ilona Södervik.

Additional information

Prof. Mikkilä-Erdmann leads the LeMed project, 128892, financed by the Academy of Finland.

Appendix

Appendix

An example paragraph from the texts. The last paragraph was present only in the refutational text, and it is italicised so as to highlight it. The section discusses food chains, energy and matter:

Food chains illustrate how energy flows from one organism to another. Carrot leaves bind solar energy in the process of photosynthesis, a rabbit gets part of this energy by eating the carrot and, in turn, a fox gets part of this energy by eating the rabbit. In each phase, part of the energy leaves the food chain. Thus, only part of the energy the carrot originally photosynthesised ends up in the fox.

Energy does not cycle in the food chain but enters the food chain only by photosynthesis. Loss of energy from the food chain means that a carnivore at the top of the food chain consumes much more energy for its growth than a same-sized herbivore would need, because of more steps in the food chain.

In the food chain, matter cycles and returns from the top of the food chain to the photosynthesising organisms. When a dead organism decomposes, nutrients from it are released back to the soil. Plants can use these nutrients again when they grow and photosynthesise.

Concepts of matter and energy are often confused. Matter cycles in nature so that when a dead animal decomposes, nutrients are released back to the soil. Many people think that energy also cycles in nature, but this does not happen. Energy has to continuously flow to the food chain. For this, photosynthesising organisms are needed, because they are able to change solar energy to chemical energy for other organisms to use.

[Translated from the original Finnish text used in the study. The authors can provide a copy on request.]

About this article

Cite this article

Södervik, I., Mikkilä-Erdmann, M. & Vilppu, H. Promoting the Understanding of Photosynthesis Among Elementary School Student Teachers Through Text Design. J Sci Teacher Educ 25, 581–600 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-013-9373-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Systemic understanding
  • Refutational text
  • Photosynthesis
  • Conceptual change
  • Science learning
  • Higher education