Subject matter linking in biology class and its impact on 9th grade pupils’ learning achievement and motivation (DFG, 2004-2006)
LMU: Prof. Dr. Birgit J. Neuhaus
Universität Duisburg-Essen: Prof. Dr. Angela Sandmann, Dr. Julia Wadouh
In international assessment studies, pupils in Germany have shown comparably low learning achievements (e.g., Baumert et al., 1997, p. 146; Prenzel et al., 2001, 235). It is assumed that teaching subject matter as isolated facts - rather than generating relations between these facts and interconnecting them with topics pupils have already learned - is one of the key problems that impede cumulative learning (e.g., Baumert et al., 1998, 122). In German educational standards and core curricula, generating relations within the subject matter and usage of basic concepts is an explicit aim (Klieme et al., 2003; KMK, 2005). However, studies that analysed how subject matter is interconnected in the biology classroom are scarcely available. Neither has the significance of the linking level for pupils’ learning achievement and learning motivation been empirically investigated.
In this study, 49 biology lessons on the topic “blood and blood circulation” of 9th grade secondary schools in North Rhine-Westphalia were videotaped. Subject matter linking was analysed by means of category systems (Sumfleth et al., 2006; Wadouh, 2007). Regarding pupils’ learning achievement, a distinction was made between factual knowledge and knowledge structure. Pupils’ gains in factual knowledge were assessed by a multiple choice test, their knowledge structure by means of concept mapping. Pupils’ learning motivation was measured by a questionnaire.
Findings showed that the generation of relations between subject matter rarely takes place in the biology class. The lessons were mainly based on single facts. Interconnections between these elements or connections to already learned issues were seldom made. The linking level in the biology lesson had a positive effect on the development of pupils’ knowledge structures. Furthermore, a positive relationship between the linking level of the lesson and pupils’ overall learning motivation was found.
The dissertation was done in cooperation with the project “Vertical linkage in biology education” in the Graduate School “Teaching and learning of science“ at Duisburg-Essen University and was funded by the German Research Foundation.