NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1118253
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 23
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0950-0693
Upper Secondary and First-Year University Students' Explanations of Animal Behaviour: To What Extent Are Tinbergen's Four Questions about Causation, Ontogeny, Function and Evolution, Represented?
Pinxten, Rianne; Desclée, Mathieu; Eens, Marcel
International Journal of Science Education, v38 n14 p2303-2325 2016
In 1963, the Nobel Prize-winning ethologist Niko Tinbergen proposed a framework for the scientific study of animal behaviour by outlining four questions that should be answered to have a complete understanding: causation, ontogeny, function and evolution. At present, Tinbergen's framework is still considered the best way to guide animal behavioural research. Given the importance in science instruction of demonstrating how scientists work and ask questions, we investigated to what extent Tinbergen's questions are addressed in biology textbooks in secondary education in Flanders, Belgium, and represented in upper-secondary and first-year university students' explanations of behaviour in general and of specific animal behaviours. Our results revealed that teaching of animal behaviour mainly addresses ontogeny and causation, and that Tinbergen's framework is not explicitly referred to. Students typically addressed only one or two questions, with the majority addressing causation or both causation and ontogeny when explaining behaviour in general, but function or causation and function when explaining specific animal behaviours. This high prevalence of function may be due to teleological thinking. Evolution was completely neglected, even in university students who had recently completed an evolution course. Our results revealed that transfer of the concepts of ontogeny and evolution was (almost) absent. We argue why Tinbergen's framework should be an integral part of any biology curriculum.
Routledge. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 325 Chestnut Street Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Fax: 215-625-2940; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Belgium
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A