Multiple Representations in Biological Education, Models and Modeling in Science Education

By Torkar, Gregor | CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Multiple Representations in Biological Education, Models and Modeling in Science Education


Torkar, Gregor, CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal


Treagust, David F. and Tsui, Chi-Yan (Ed.) (2013). Multiple Representations in Biological Education, Models and Modeling in Science Education (Volume 7). Dordrecht, Heidelberg, New York, London: Springer. 390 p. ISBN: 978-94-007-4191-1 (print version)

Why should we read this book? I can think of at least two major reasons why the book entitled Multiple Representations in Biological Education, published by Springer in 2013 in the Models and Modeling in Science Education series, is essential reading for anyone involved in biology education.

The first has to do with the lifestyle of people, especially youth, in contemporary societies. The situation in economically undeveloped, developing, and developed societies around the world is far from equal; nevertheless, there is a common trend of peoples' growing displacement from the natural environment. Today, on average, children and adolescents spend less time outdoors, playing and discovering things, resulting in a wide range of problems that Richard Louv (2005) labelled 'nature deficit disorder'. The term is receiving increasing attention in the relevant literature. Direct contact with living things in natural environments provides information and experiences that learners use in school as a solid base to construct a deeper understanding of the world. Unfortunately, the current state of primary and secondary schooling remains unchanged, and learning outcomes are to the greatest extent still realised in the classroom. The content of the book provides a synthesis of international research on using visualisations, analogies and other means of external representations to improve higher-order learning. In particular, modern modes of representation, like virtual reality, might influence narrowing the gap described above. However, this cannot replace direct experiences in nature!

Second, an equally or even more important reason for studying the content of the book is, in my opinion, the current position of biology as a natural science. In recent decades, biology has evolved from classical (descriptive) to modern (explanatory) science. Following the era of engineering (19th century), chemistry and physics (20th century), biology is starting to play a key role in tackling the global/complex problems of the 21st century. Biology education is following these changes. For example, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (2009) has identified six unifying principles in biology that can help organise the biological content of a course and the patterns and processes of natural phenomena in the living world: (1) evolution, (2) Interactions and interdependence, (3) genetic continuity and reproduction, (4) growth, development and differentiation, (5) energy, matter and organisation, (6) maintenance of a dynamic equilibrium. Similarly, in the book under review, The Biological Sciences Curriculum Study's approach to biology is named 'the domain knowledge of biology' and described as a body of extensive and complex knowledge about life and living organisms, which incorporates the integration of other disciplines, particularly chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Therefore, illustrating teaching and learning strategies to enhance students' ability to construct mental models and internal representations with the use of multiple external representations will assist them in understanding biology-related issues, such as societal problems about food, the environment, energy and health.

This book consists of 19 chapters arranged in three thematic parts. Part I is entitled Role of Multiple Representations in Learning Biology and consists of six chapters. Authors discuss the important roles multiple external representations have in biology education in order to make learning and teaching most effective. Part II is entitled Implications for Biology Teaching and Teacher Education and consists of seven chapters, which mainly provide examples of teaching biology with multiple external representations. …

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