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Browsing by Subject "käsitteellinen muutos"

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  • Kiviluoma, Tomi (2021)
    Education research has for decades acknowledged that prior knowledge is a strong predictor of academic success. This idea is largely based on constructivist theory of learning which postulates that all learning occurs by actively building on existing knowledge. When this prior knowledge conflicts with the normative scientific understanding, students are dealing with incompatible knowledge structures, or misconceptions. Misconceptions need to be revised and sometimes even replaced through a learning process called conceptual change. Research shows that the level of prior knowledge can determine students’ academic success and performance. Undergraduate biology students enrol to university with diverse levels of prior knowledge and concepts regarding topics such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration, primary production in ecosystems, and Darwinian evolution. These topics present challenges for learning because of their complexity. At the same time, a robust understanding of them is essential. These topics are at the heart of mitigating and resolving the climate crisis and other global natural threats. This study explored the level of prior knowledge and the nature of misconceptions held by undergraduate biology students at the beginning of their academic degree in fall of 2019, and further sought to describe how their conceptual understanding developed during the first academic year. Students (N = 41) completed a questionnaire consisting of eight open-ended questions that were designed to assess declarative knowledge of facts and meaning, and procedural integration and application of knowledge. This pre-test measurement was conducted in September 2019. In the post-test measurement, the same questionnaire was repeated a year later. The data were analysed with a mixed methods approach where the answers were quantitatively scored as well as qualitatively analysed for misconceptions. The qualitative content analysis of the answers relied both on existing literature and on the content of the answers themselves. Results showed that the students’ prior knowledge was relatively poor in the beginning of their studies. Most students performed well in tasks measuring knowledge of facts and meaning but struggled in tasks measuring integration and application of knowledge. During the first academic year, the students’ understanding generally improved as demonstrated by the improvement in mean scores of the tasks. Misconceptions were robust and pervasive. The most pervasive misconceptions reflected difficulties in understanding emergent properties and processes. Misconceptions related to the process of Darwinian evolution became more prominent in the post-test. Persistent misconceptions became integrated with the new conceptual frameworks that the students acquired during the first academic year. If students held no misconceptions in the post-test, they performed significantly better in both tests than those with misconceptions. During this first academic year learning seemed to be mainly additive as conceptual change turned out to be rare. The need for more encompassing biology teaching at least in the University of Helsinki became evident. Introductory courses should acknowledge the large degree of variation in students’ prior knowledge and assess the most common and serious misconceptions even over course theme disciplines to ensure more equal learning outcomes.
  • Kettunen, Paavo (2023)
    Education for sustainability has come to be seen as an important part of achieving the sustainability goals, also in universities. However, the challenge for sustainability education is that sustainability is an ever-changing and highly complex concept. One theoretical approach for studying the learning of such complex concepts and phenomena is the conceptual change research tradition. The theory of conceptual change stems from the constructivist approach to learning, according to which learning takes place by modifying and completing existing knowledge structures. Sometimes these prior knowledge structures of the learner conflict with scientific knowledge, and in order to reach a new understanding, the learner has to change and reorganize their existing conceptions. With a new conception comes a whole new way of understanding a phenomenon, as related concepts take on new meanings. The process described above is called conceptual change. This thesis studied what kind of conceptions university students had about sustainability before the University of Helsinki's Sustainability Course (SUST-001, 3 cr) in autumn 2021, and how these conceptions had changed after the course. In addition, we investigated whether there were differences between students in human and natural science-oriented disciplines in the above-mentioned aspects. Conceptions were investigated using a baseline and endline measurement design. The study sample was students enrolled in a sustainability course at the University of Helsinki (N = 109). The data was analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Based on the results, the students' perceptions were quite narrow at the beginning of the course, although the responses showed that most students came to the course with some prior knowledge of sustainability. In addition, three narrow conceptions similar to misconceptions of the conceptual change were identified from the initial survey: ecology-limited, anthropocentric and weak sustainability conceptions. In the final measurement, students' perceptions of sustainability improved and, in particular, students' understanding of the different dimensions of sustainability, the interlinkages between them and the complex nature of sustainability in general increased. About half of the narrow conceptions also changed, although the anthropocentric conception was slightly more persistent. In the cross-disciplinary analysis, attention was drawn to the tendency of students in natural science-oriented disciplines to change their narrow view in comparison to students in human science-oriented disciplines. Based on the results, the Sustainability course can be seen as successful in teaching many of the key contents of the concept of sustainability. There were also indications of conceptual change. However, there is a need to further develop the course and to integrate sustainability more broadly into the different educational programs. Furthermore, it is very important to continue to study the success of this integration and of sustainability education also in the future.