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University students' reflections on representations in genetics and stereochemistry revealed by a focus group approach
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Biomedical Sciences.
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Biomedical Sciences.
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Biology and Environmental Science.
Uppsala University.
2015 (English)In: NorDiNa: Nordic Studies in Science Education, ISSN 1504-4556, E-ISSN 1894-1257, Vol. 11, no 2, 169-179 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Genetics and organic chemistry are areas of science that students regard as difficult to learn. Part ofthis difficulty is derived from the disciplines having representations as part of their discourses. In orderto optimally support students’ meaning-making, teachers need to use representations to structure themeaning-making experience in thoughtful ways that consider the variation in students’ prior knowledge.Using a focus group setting, we explored 43 university students’ reasoning on representationsin introductory chemistry and genetics courses. Our analysis of eight focus group discussions revealedhow students can construct somewhat bewildered relations with disciplinary-specific representations.The students stated that they preferred familiar representations, but without asserting themeaning-making affordances of those representations. Also, the students were highly aware of the affordances of certain representations, but nonetheless chose not to use those representations in theirproblem solving. We suggest that an effective representation is one that, to some degree, is familiarto the students, but at the same time is challenging and not too closely related to “the usual one”.The focus group discussions led the students to become more aware of their own and others ways ofinterpreting different representations. Furthermore, feedback from the students’ focus group discussionsenhanced the teachers’ awareness of the students’ prior knowledge and limitations in students’representational literacy. Consequently, we posit that a focus group setting can be used in a universitycontext to promote both student meaning-making and teacher professional development in a fruitfulway.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 11, no 2, 169-179 p.
Keyword [en]
Genetics, chemistry, representations, university students, focus group
National Category
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences, General Didactics
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-43536OAI: diva2:815807
Available from: 2015-06-01 Created: 2015-06-01 Last updated: 2016-06-30Bibliographically approved

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Edfors, IngerWikman, SusanneJohansson-Cederblad, Brita
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