Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 9, Issue 1, Article 10 (Jun., 2008)
Ercan AKPINAR and Omer ERGIN
Fostering primary school students’ understanding of cells and other related concepts with interactive computer animation instruction accompanied by teacher and student-prepared concept maps

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Primary science programs (curricula) of developed countries have had highly-developed student-centered science programs since the middle of the 1970’s (Hodson & Hodson, 1998). These programs are strongly influenced by constructivist theory. In contrast, in Turkey, the primary science programs were influenced by the behaviorist view from 1924 to 1989. Although the program employed in 1992 had some constructivist influence, it was heavily based on behaviorist theory, and this influence continued until the late 1990s (Unal & Akpınar, 2004).

In 2000, the Turkish Ministry of National Education radically changed the National Primary Science Curriculum to include some constructivist views (Kılıç, 2001) and it was put into practice until 2004. Between 2004 and 2005, The Turkish Ministry of National Education made some new changes to the National Primary Science Curriculum. These changes have redirected the curriculum to be based heavily on constructivist views and have given up former perspectives. This new curriculum is one that is student-centered (Akpınar & Ergin, 2005, Turkish National Primary Science Curriculum, 2005).

The new curriculum offers students opportunities to engage in hands-on and minds-on activities, and to construct meaningful learning based on their own prior knowledge and experiences. In this curriculum, the students assume responsibility for acquiring active learning strategies including learning how to learn, discovering, and carrying out research. Moreover, it offers students the chance to work cooperatively and share their knowledge and experiences with each other. When the science teacher begins the course, the most important thing he or she should do is to consider students’ prior knowledge and beliefs. The curriculum gives the role of a facilitator to the science teacher. The science teacher is not a transporter of knowledge, but a learner who is actively engaged in the classroom activities as if he or she is learning with the students and is preparing a self-learning environment (Turkish National Primary Science Curriculum, 2005).

As a result, constructivist theory has been the dominant paradigm of teaching science in Turkey since the beginning of the year 2000. The major role of the science teacher, according to this theory, is to create a learning climate that helps students acquire and make sense of knowledge. The science teacher should employ some learning and teaching strategies together with methods to encourage and help students to become active learners in science courses. Concept maps and computer mediated cognitive tools are very useful for actively engaging students . So, in this study, we used interactive computer animations accompanied by concept maps in order to determine whether this instruction method fostered students’ understanding of cells and other related concepts in in a primary school science course biology lesson. It was also investigated whether or not this instruction had a positive effect on the students’ attitudes toward science.

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