New approaches to understanding the development of biological concepts in young children

Zayba Ghazali-Mohammed, Andrew Tolmie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper outlines the development of a new methodology to assess young children’s (aged 4-11) ideas about biological phenomena in an effort to understand conceptual development across the primary age range. Presently, curricular design is an activity that rests on some fundamental assumptions about the organisation of knowledge and development of understanding. For instance, the National Curriculum for England is organised in a manner that assumes sequential learning of scientific concepts so that generalised understanding can be developed on the basis of earlier concepts. However there is a distinct lack of any systematic literature on the processes behind conceptual development, which have often shown children’s learning to be piecemeal and unlikely to progress in such a straight-forward and linear fashion, contrary to earlier theorising (e.g. Piaget, 1972). Where there is any body of work, such as on early ideas of inheritance, it is based on highly constrained paradigms that have arguably led to a distorted view of children’s capabilities. Other work also highlights the fact that young children start school with existing prior knowledge and often hold misconceptions that are highly resistant to change (Driver, Guesne & Tiberghien, 1985). How cognitive schemata are organised cannot be fully understood without first exploring the processes behind conceptual change and above all the ways in which related concepts are interlinked in more coordinated fashion. This is something that has rarely been the focus of psychological investigation. New approaches to assessing conceptual development in biology are presented in an effort to redress this.
Translated title of the contributionNew approaches to understanding the development of biological concepts in young children
Original languageSpanish
Pages (from-to)97-118
Number of pages22
JournalEducación Siglo XXI
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

Keywords

  • biology
  • conceptual development
  • science learning
  • National Curriculum
  • primary science

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