Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 9, Issue 1, Article 8 (June, 2008)
Osman CARDAK and Musa Dikmenli
The knowledge of DNA and DNA technologies among pre-service science teachers

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In recent years, many science education researchers have focused on students’ conceptual development and cognitive processes (Kwon& Lawson, 2000). They mainly accepted that each student had a different cognitive structure because of their different abilities, backgrounds and attitudes (Piaget, 1969). Many science education studies deal with alternative conceptions related to science subjects taught in schools worldwide. The students learn new information daily and tend to commit this learned information in the direction of beliefs and ideas they previously developed through intuition. As a result,  students start to restructure scientific events. Educators now generally agree that students come to class with established ideas that are different from those usually accepted by scientists. These different conceptions generated by students have been called misconceptions (Arnaudin & Mintzes, 1985), children science (Gilbert, Osborn & Fensham, 1982), naive theories (Mintzes, 1984) or alternative conceptions (Fisher, 1985). Widespread misconceptions in formal education are very resistant to change (Wandersee, Mintzes & Novak, 1994). Students seem to have difficulty learning concepts as well as changing previously held alternative concepts from biology and other science courses (Bahar, 2003; Kinchin, 2000; Treagust, 1988; Bloom, 1990). Several reasons suggest that students can hold alternative conceptions; misconceptions could begin during the first school years or even earlier (Bell, 1981; Pines & West, 1986). Alternative conceptions held by students were not easily changed throughout their schooling.  These misconceptions adversely affected meaningful learning of new concepts and the ability to make connections with other concepts in science courses (Strike & Posner, 1982).

With the goal to help individuals become science and technology literate, some of the most important aims of science education are to make sure that students learn and understand the natural world, experience the excitement and intellectual prosperity of it and use proper scientific processes and principles while making personal decisions. Today, biotechnology and genetic engineering have considerably improved issues such as drug production, criminal DNA testing, cloning, gene transfer, the human genome project and nutrition production. The studies made in biotechnology and genetic engineering fields shed light on a good deal of unknown subjects; however, at the same time, they are met with reservations by some members of the scientific community due to possible future outcomes. Specifically, the ethical discussions about the development of biotechnology and its area of usage are subjects of many studies (Oka & Macer, 2000). In their study to identify high school students’ stance towards biotechnology in Taiwan and England, Chen and Raffan (1999) pointed out that students’ opinions concede that genetic intervention can be made on plants, but the genes of the animals shouldn’t be messed with. In their studies, Dawson and Schibeci (2003) determined 15-year-old students’ knowledge about modern biotechnology in West Australia, and they concluded that approximately 1/3 of the students have little or no information about biotechnology; moreover,  they are confused about the future uses of the biotechnology. Dawson and Schibeci (2003) have also revealed the stance of the 15-year-old students in West Australia toward modern biotechnology, and they concluded that more than 90% of the students concede to biotechnological practices on plants. The ethical discussions about the development of biotechnology and its area of usage are subjects to many studies (Oka & Macer, 2000). Dawson and Soames (2006) have discovered a positive improvement in students’ knowledge who were taking biotechnology lessons, however they disapproved  of the usage of humans in biotechnological studies. Ozdemir (2005) revealed that elementary education students have misconceptions about genetics and biotechnology. The researcher pointed out that the main concepts of genetics and biotechnology should be taught  more thoroughly, in an interrelated way and with tangible examples. In their study on genetic concept comprehension levels of both students and pre-service in four different populations in Israel, Marbach-Ad (2001) revealed that both the students and pre-service teachers were in need of genetic education.

In our society, genetic engineering and biotechnology information and their application is learned about through the media rather than in educational institutions. Students’ views of biotechnology and its application areas tend to be impacted by various discussions about the subject. In addition, having a good grasp of the main scientific concepts rather than specific details is considered to be more valuable. For this reason, a better understanding of biotechnology and genetic engineering will allow students to make more correct and conscious decisions related to application areas of biotechnology. In many countries, the subjects related to biotechnology and genetic engineering are included in the high school biology program in Turkey. However, upon scanning the literature, not many studies were found concerning the knowledge and stance of the students towards genetic engineering and biotechnology in Turkey. Determining the biotechnology and genetic engineering knowledge and stance of pre-service teachers will be helpful for designing new teaching materials for the subject.


The purpose of this study is to determine the alternative conceptions of elementary school pre-service science teachers on DNA and DNA technologies. The questions we tried to answer include: What do the students know about DNA and DNA Technologies? What are the alternative answers of the pre-service science teachers about DNA and DNA Technologies?

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