Academic journal article International Education Studies

Determining Biology Student Teachers' Cognitive Structure on the Concept of "Diffusion" through the Free Word-Association Test and the Drawing-Writing Technique

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Determining Biology Student Teachers' Cognitive Structure on the Concept of "Diffusion" through the Free Word-Association Test and the Drawing-Writing Technique

Article excerpt


The aim of the current study is to investigate student biology teachers' cognitive structures related to "diffusion" through the free word-association test and the drawing-writing technique. As the research design of the study, the qualitative research method was applied. The data were collected from 44 student biology teachers. The free word-association test and the drawing-writing technique were used as data collection instruments. The data were subject to content analysis and divided into categories through coding. In the analysis, the categories were formed and determined through the results of word-association test and drawing-writing test which were completed by the student biology teachers. With the help of these categories, the cognitive structures of student biology teachers were explained. The data collected through the study were divided into 8 categories (defining diffusion, diffusion environments, diffusion-forms of substance transfer, places and structures where diffusion occurs, substances in diffusion and their characteristics, importance of diffusion in plants, examples of diffusion and factors influencing diffusion speed). The common and dominant category in both assessment instruments is "defining diffusion". On the other hand, it was determined that student biology teachers had alternative concepts related to diffusion. At the end of the article, comprehensive suggestions are presented on the subject.

Keywords: diffusion, free word association test, drawing-writing technique, cognitive structure, alternative concepts

1. Introduction

Learning occurs as a result of an interaction between what the student learns and the concepts already existing in her mind (Posner, Strike, Hewson & Gertzog, 1982). For this reason, determining and revealing the existing concepts in students' cognitive structures is of importance for learning (Hewson & Hewson, 1981). It is highly difficult to account for students' cognitive structures that are formed as a result of learning. However significant data can be obtained by unveiling their opinions through key concepts, and thus individuals' cognitive structures can be revealed (Gilbert, Boulter & Rutherford, 1998a; Gilbert, Boulter & Rutherford, 1998b; Gilbert & Boulter, 2000). Researches on concepts demonstrate individuals' cognitive structures pertaining to those concepts. Conceptual knowledge is not only to know the name or definition of a concept, but also is to be able to see the transitions and relations between concepts. Biology is a course which requires students to be able to see the micro and macro relations among concepts. Otherwise, learning cannot be realized (Bahar, Johnstone & Hansell, 1999; Cimer, 2012; Jones & Rua, 2006; Lukin, 2013; Lazarowitz & Pensó, 1992; Prokop, Prokop, Tunnicliffe & Dirán, 2007; Seymour & Longdon, 1991; Simpson & Marek, 1988; Udovic, Morris, Dickman, Postlethwait & Wetherwax, 2002; Treagust, 1988). For this reason, Biology is among the courses in which students struggle to learn; due to their failure in comprehending the unity at the level of biological organization, in understanding the micro and macro level relations among concepts, and in making sense of abstract subjects. In this process, they struggle to learn those concepts that point to the micro and macro relations inherent in biological events.

One of the essential concepts in biology is "DIFFUSION". Diffusion can roughly be defined as molecules' movement from a high-concentration area to a low-concentration one due to their kinetic energies (Figure 1). Cook, Carter and Wiebe (2008) suggest that diffusion is one of the main concepts that help us understand cells and their relations with their enviromnents, exchange of matters between living organisms during equilibrium and water transportation, essential operations of life, and certain biological events in living bodies. The concept of diffusion is closely linked with concepts in other fields of science. …

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