Crosscutting Concepts in Biology Lessons (09/2012-11/2016)
LMU: Prof. Dr. Birgit J. Neuhaus, Dr. Katharina Heidenfelder, Michael Spangler
Our classrooms, heavily loaded with discrete-unrelated facts have long been a biggest challenge in the path of biology classrooms that have been striving to facilitate in-depth learning of content (Wadouh, Liu, Sandmann, & Neuhaus, 2013). In order to address this challenge, education researchers have recommended that our classes need to include crosscutting concepts which might not only help interconnect knowledge but will also facilitate deeper understanding of key concepts (Schmiemann, Linsner, Wenning, & Sandmann, 2012). The proposed study will try to investigate the extent to which such recommendations can help achieve classroom goals like deeper understanding and application of knowledge in new contexts.
Furthermore, effects of using context based biology lessons are quite unclear. On the one hand, context is supposed to facilitate the learning process while, on the other hand one could assume it increases the cognitive load and hinders the students´ learning. Since 1980s contexts are being implemented successfully in chemistry (Bennett, Lubben, & Hogarth, 2006) and in physics (Finkelstein, 2005) lessons to account for the children’s daily life experiences and prior knowledge. Such context based classrooms facilitate the use of the acquired knowledge and thereby catalyse the process of conceptual understanding. But, with regard to biology, a very few studies have been conducted to understand the influence of contexts in biology lessons on the interest and outcome of students. These studies have shown varied and inconsistent results (Haugwitz, 2009). For e.g. in an experimental design conducted for biology classrooms, Sennebogen (2013) provided some empirical evidences about the positive impact of context on the ‘situational interest’ and ‘performance gain’ of students.
Hence, the first part of this study will strive to build up on these empirical evidences and will endeavor to understand the correlation between real-life context and cross-cutting concepts and their effect on student interests and cognitive performance in a 2*2 design. In addition to the quantitative and empirical results anticipated at the end of this study, the project also provides with an opportunity to develop some ‘teaching-learning material’ that can be used for the professional development of teachers.