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dc.contributor.authorLiu, Yang
dc.contributor.supervisorProf. David F. Treagust

This thesis comprises a series of inter-related studies that examined: (1) diagrams presented in commonly used biology textbooks in Western Australian schools; (2) teachers’ use of diagrams as part of their normal teaching routines; (3) students’ perceptions of how they learn about diagrams in their lessons; and (4) students’ use of text and diagrams in explaining two phenomena in biology that had not been presented in class.Phase one of the research reports the results of an analysis diagrams presented in biology textbooks used by Western Australian students to examine their distribution pattern. Three types of diagrams (iconic, schematic, and charts & graphs) were investigated in science education based on the work of Novick (2006). Therefore, content analysis in this research entailed a systematic reading and categorizing of these diagrams from a number of secondary school textbooks. The textbook types include lower secondary general science textbooks, upper secondary biology textbooks, and biology workbooks. Descriptive statistics were conducted in order to provide first-hand data on exploring how diagrams are used in biology books. Findings of the study suggest that the three types of diagrams are distributed with unique patterns in the secondary biology textbooks.Phase two reports the investigation of biology teachers’ use of diagrams in their classroom teaching. Biology teachers’ teaching was observed in order to determine instructional methods related to diagrammatic teaching and learning in the natural environment. This study described and analysed how teachers of biology use the three different types of diagrams to introduce, explain and evaluate abstract biology concepts.The third phase of the research reports an analysis of how students think about their teachers’ instructional strategies when teaching with diagrams. An instrument was developed from a previously existing instrument to help students reflect upon their use of diagrams during their teachers’ instruction. The questionnaire data indicated that most participant students recognised teachers’ instructional methods in teaching diagrammatic representations as being explanatory tools, in representing biological concepts, and in help assessing their learning. The three dimensions identified by the questionnaire (Instruction with diagram, Assessment with diagrams and Student diagrammatic competence), demonstrated that students’ perceived experienced biology teachers as being more skillful in having diagrams to engage their learning.Phase four investigated students’ conceptual learning of diagrams alongside other modes of representations. The purpose of this phase was to determine how the students interpreted diagrams together with their counterpart – text – when learning three different biology concepts using an interview protocol. In each interview, students were presented with a biological concept with diagrammatic representation (iconic, schematic diagrams, and charts & graphs) together with textual representation (such as written text and chemical equations). The chapter concludes by showing that diagram and text serve different functional roles in students’ conceptual learning when one or both representations are presented. The results showed that diagram and text may constrain, construct or complementary each other so as to help students understand the complex concept.The final chapter draws together and discusses the findings generated in all of the previous studies in which diagrams were used in various aspects of secondary biological education, such as textbooks, classroom instruction, students’ perceptions, and representational learning with text. The limitations of the research are discussed and suggestions made for future research on the instructional usage of diagrams in biological teaching and learning.

dc.publisherCurtin University
dc.subjectsecondary school biology
dc.titleTeaching and learning secondary school biology with diagrams
curtin.departmentScience and Mathematics Education Centre
curtin.accessStatusOpen access

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