En didaktisk studie av kunskapsinnehåll i biologi på universitetet Med genbegreppet som exempel
Sammanfattning: This thesis is about knowing in biology in higher education and research. The gene concept is used as an example of knowledge content that is common to both biological research and education. The purpose is to study how knowing about the gene is expressed in different forms of knowledge contexts at the university. This is important to study in order to understand documented learning problems regarding the gene concept but also to better understand the relation between knowledge in research and teaching. Knowledge has to be transformed to become an educational content, a process that is of special interest within the field of Didaktik. The thesis is based on three qualitative case studies. Study I is an analysis of a textbook in biology. The purpose is to examine the content as presented to the students to see how its structure may contribute to the problems students have. How does the gene concept function as a scientific representation and at the same time as an object for learning in a biology college textbook? A phenomenographic approach is used to study implicit variation in gene concept use when the textbook treats different sub disciplines. The results show conceptual differences between them. The different categories of the gene found–as a trait, an information structure, an actor in the cell, a regulator in embryonic development or as a marker for evolutionary change–mean that we deal with different phenomena. The gene as an object is ascribed different functions and furthermore these functions are intermingled in the textbook. Since, in the textbook, these conceptual differences are not articulated, they likely are a source of confusion when learning about genes. Study II examines the gene concept use in a scientific context, as exemplified by five research articles from a scientific journal. Using an adaptation of Hirst’s criteria for forms of knowledge, the study characterizes how the scientific contexts for the gene concept use vary. What kinds of different gene concept use in these contexts can be discerned? When comparing the articles, it becomes evident that the gene concept is used to answer different kinds of questions. The meanings of the gene concept are connected to various knowledge projects, their purposes and the methods used. Shifts of methodologies and questions entail a concept that escapes single definitions and “slides around” in meanings. These contextual transformations and associated content leaps are here referred to as epistemic drift. Study III follows an integrative research project in biology. What are the characteristic content conditions for knowledge development? What different ways in using the gene concept can be distinguished? By using the analytic methodology developed in study II, the scientific contexts are categorized according to their knowledge project, methods used and conceptual contexts. The results show that the gene concept meanings and the content vary in focus, are more or less explicitly formulated, or possible to formulate, and consist of different skills. One didactic conclusion is that by being more overt about the conditions for problem solving within a specific subdisciplin (i.e. fruitful questions to ask, knowledge needed to answer them, and methods available), students may be given opportunities to get a broader perspective on what it means to know biology.
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