A Cross-Age Study of Students'Conceptual Understanding of Interdependency inSeed Dispersal, Pollination, and Food Chains Using a Constructivist Theoretical Framework

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Title: A Cross-Age Study of Students'Conceptual Understanding of Interdependency inSeed Dispersal, Pollination, and Food Chains Using a Constructivist Theoretical Framework
Author: Smith, Shirley McCraw
Advisors: Dr. Glenda S. Carter, Committee Chair
Abstract: The purpose of this research was to investigate students' understanding of interdependency across grade levels. Interdependency concepts selected for this study included food chains, pollination, and seed dispersal. Children's everyday concepts and scientific concepts across grade levels represented the focus of conceptual understanding. The researcher interviewed a total of 24 students across grade levels, six students each from grades 3, 7, and 10, and 6 college students. Data were collected by means of interviews and card sorts. A constructivist theoretical framework formed the groundwork for presenting the focus of this study and for interpreting the results of the interview data. Results were analyzed on the basis of identifying student responses to interview questions as either everyday concepts or as scientific concepts, along with transition through the zone of proximal development (ZPD) by mediation, as developed by Vygotsky Results revealed that children across grade levels vary in their everyday and scientific understanding of the three interdependency concepts. Results for seed dispersal showed little evidence of understanding for grade 3, that is, seed dispersal was not within the zone of proximal development (ZPD) for grade 3 students. Students in grades 7 and 10 showed a developing transition within the zone of proximal development from everyday to scientific understanding, and college students demonstrated scientific understanding of seed dispersal. For pollination and food chains, results showed that grades 3, 7, and 10 were in transition from everyday to scientific understanding, and all college students demonstrated scientific understanding. The seed dispersal concept proved more complex than pollination and food chains. The findings of this study have implications for classroom teachers. By understanding the dynamic nature of the ZPD continuum for students, teachers can plan instruction to meet the needs of each student.
Date: 2004-07-28
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Science Education
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/5188


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