ERIC Number: EJ921101
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jan
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
College Students' Understanding of the Carbon Cycle: Contrasting Principle-Based and Informal Reasoning
Hartley, Laurel M.; Wilke, Brook J.; Schramm, Jonathon W.; D'Avanzo, Charlene; Anderson, Charles W.
BioScience, v61 n1 p65-75 Jan 2011
Processes that transform carbon (e.g., photosynthesis) play a prominent role in college biology courses. Our goals were to learn about student reasoning related to these processes and provide faculty with tools for instruction and assessment. We created a framework illustrating how carbon-transforming processes can be related to one another during instruction by explicitly teaching students to employ principle-based reasoning--using, for example, laws of conservation of energy and matter. Frameworks such as ours may improve biology instruction more effectively than a strategy of cataloging alternate conceptions and addressing them individually. We created four sets of diagnostic question clusters to help faculty at 13 US universities assess students' understanding of carbon-transforming processes from atomic-molecular through ecosystem scales. The percentage of students using principle-based reasoning more than doubled from 12% to 27% after instruction, but 50% of students still poorly used principle-based reasoning in their responses, and 16% exhibited informal reasoning with no attempt to trace matter or energy.
Descriptors: Energy, Ecology, Botany, Biology, Concept Formation, College Students, Higher Education, Science Instruction, Science Education, Models
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States