Considering well-documented difficulties in mastering ecology concepts and system thinking, the aim of the study was to examine 9th graders' understanding of the complex, multilevel, systemic construct of feeding relations, nested within a larger system of a live model. Fifty students interacted with the model and manipulated a variable within it in the course of this model ecosystem yearlong inquiry, in a laboratory/traditional learning environment. Students' written responses to 10 pretest-posttest probes underwent fine-grain analysis regarding 53 descriptors of the system of feeding relations. Overall, students exhibited initial system thinking, manifested in different levels of increased ability to identify: system components, processes, levels, and their interrelations; ecosystem patterns and control mechanisms; equilibrium shifts; and spatial and temporal aspects of feeding relations. However, many still exhibited a deficient understanding of the system studied, reflecting a deficient system thinking. Implications for systemic ecology teaching and learning are discussed.Keywords System thinking Á Live system model Á Long-term inquiry Á Ecology instruction and learning Á Junior high school Instruction of ecology poses great difficulties for students' learning (e.g., Hogan and Fisherkeller 1996;Reiner and Eilam 2001). These difficulties are usually attributed to ecology's interdisciplinary nature, to ecological theories' low level of generality, formalization, and verifiability (del Solar and Marone 2001), to the complex systemic nature of ecosystems (Grotzer and Bel Basca 2003;Hmelo-Silver et al. 2007), to the need to comprehend biological systems of increasing levels of complexity (Model et al. 2005), and to students' prior knowledge (Vosniadou 1994). For most biology students, learning biology mostly involves memorizing details about static components of phenomena while disregarding systemic changes in time (Wilensky and Reisman 2006). Learning about a system's components alone does not ensure students' development of system thinking.
ABSTRACT:The present paper focuses on ninth graders' difficulties in learning ecology. Three dimensions, in addition to the macrolevel dimension, were identified as basic obstacles that might hinder students' meaningful learning of ecology: the microlevel dimension, relating to the molecular and micro processes of matter and energy transfer in ecosystems; the spatial dimension of ecosystems, regarding simultaneous occurrences in space and the multiple roles of their biotic elements; and the time dimension, relating to long-term evolutionary forces acting in ecosystems. These four dimensions were examined in students' understanding of the concept of food chains in ecosystems. Four ninth grade classrooms participated in the study. Two of the classes studied ecology in the traditional mode and served as a control. Two classes were exposed to a novel, specifically designed learning context for ecology study, which integrated several elements known to influence learning, including a special curriculum to guide students' active involvement in a self-regulated process of inquiry. A qualitative analysis of students' written responses and recorded verbal interactions was used, as well as simple quantitative methods.
The Israeli educational milieu contains two different cultures with separate educational systems: the Arab culture, distinguished by its traditional and collectivist orientation despite undergoing a process of modernization, and the Jewish Western-democratic, individualistic culture. This study describes a unique multiculturalistic phenomenon whereby Arab students, who have been educated in the context of the Arab family and school culture, “pass through” a Western-oriented teacher education program and then return to teach in their own culture. The study traces the development of awareness regarding the impact of cultural factors on education among several groups: Arab (and some Jewish) teacher trainees prior to, during, and after their university training; experienced Arab teachers working in the field; and Arab experts in education. The study focuses on the Arab teacher trainees’ ability to make sense of the knowledge presented in the training program, in light of their own prior knowledge and beliefs as well as other difficulties related to studying in a foreign language and unfamiliar style. Changes in the Arab teacher trainees’ beliefs and attitudes are traced as they construct bodies of knowledge along the path toward becoming teachers, and their notions of how the newly acquired knowledge can be applied in the Arab community are also investigated.
This explorative field study examined the mediating role of self-regulated learning (SRL) in the relationship between the personality trait of conscientiousness, SRL, and science achievement in a sample of junior high school students. Over the course of an entire academic year, data on enacted SRL were collected each week for 52 eighth-grade students in the context of an inquirybased ecology project. Data were also collected on personality traits, self-reported study strategies, science project achievement, and grade point average. Findings show significant relationships between conscientiousness, SRL, and achievement. As hypothesized, conscientiousness was shown to significantly impact academic achievement in the inquiry-based course, mediated by enacted SRL. C 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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