Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 9, Issue 1, Article 11 (Jun., 2008)
Ibrahim Tastan, Musa Dikmenli, Osman Cardak
Effectiveness of the conceptual change texts accompanied by concept maps about students’ understanding of the molecules carrying genetical information

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A great majority of recently published science education studies have shown that intuition is responsible for some of students beliefs and ideas about scientific events. The students learn new information daily and they tend to commit this learned information in the direction of their previously held beliefs and ideas developed through intuition. Thus, students start to restructure scientific events. Since most students’ information is restructured based on their own ideas that tend to, contradict scientific realities. This forms an important hindrance in science teaching (Driver, 1989). Students have developed information stated as naive theories, intuitional beliefs, preconceptions, children’s science, alternative frameworks, alternative conceptions or misconceptions in consequence of their own comments in the first terms of school years or from some inconsistent explanations made in the environments inside or outside the school (Bahar, 2003; Wandersee, Mintzes & Novak, 1994). In some situations, teachers’ beliefs or the statements included in the textbooks have caused misconceptions or have reinforced misconceptions (Abimbola & Baba, 1996; Dikmenli & Cardak, 2004; Barras, 1984; Storey, 1992). If misconceptions are not identified and corrected, they go on for long years and form important obstacles within subsequent education process. In some biology education studies in Turkey, it has been found out that the students have misconceptions in various areas of biology (Alparslan, Tekkaya & Geban, 2003; Tekkaya, 2003; Sungur, Tekkaya & Geban; Ascı, Ozkan & Tekkaya, 2001).

Molecules carrying genetic information is an important subject and is hard to teach and learn in schools. Fisher (1985) has found that most university students have misconceptions about the products of translation. Fisher has also asked students, “where do amino acids come from?” He explained that while some of the students have correct concepts concerning the origin of amino acids, the remaining majority have various misconceptions. Some of the students stated that amino acids are always present and they come from a holy source or they derive from a leading sea. Some students think that amino acids are synthesized by ribosomes and m-RNA through the translation process. Other students stated that they have no opinion about the source of amino acids and its origin.

Ozkan and his colleagues (2004) have examined the effects of conceptual change texts on 7th grade students’ understanding the concepts about ecology. In this study, the ecology subject was given to the experimental group through  conceptual change texts, the control group was taught using traditional teaching methods (involving lessons using lecture/ discussion methods to teach concepts) . A statistically meaningful difference was found in favour of the experimental group about understanding ecology concepts.

People learn concepts being units of the thought and the words being their names, classify the concepts, find out the relations among them beginning from childhood. Therefore they rearrange by acquiring meaning to their information. They just create new concepts and information. The concepts should be learned through meaningful techniques. Otherwise the problems concerning the permanence of information occur (Kinchin, David & Adams, 2000). One advocate of meaningful learning is David Ausubel. He sees the essential element of learning as students’ joining information they learned before with new information (Amir & Tamir, 1995).

One of the conceptual change strategies involves the use of conceptual change texts. The texts are used to suplement classroom instruction. The teacher directs students to read the text silently. At the end of a paragraph, a question is posed and students are asked to stop reading. The evidence is presented that a misconception is incorrect, or a concept is explained scientifically. Then, the teacher discusses the statements in text with students. Conceptual change texts are very useful in changing and developing conceptual information structure. (Kinchin, David & Adams, 2000; Sungur, Tekkaya& Geban, 2001;Türkmen, Cardak & Dikmenli, 2005).

Because of the importance of concept maps in the literature review, this study examines the effects of concept maps together with conceptual change texts.

Concept maps first developed during a study carried out by students graduating from Novak and Cornell Universities (Horton et al., 1993). Concept maps help describing how related concept systems are connected to each other (Cliburn, 1990). To prepare a concept map, the first step involves finding related concepts and then they must be shown in a meaningful style (Lloyd, 1990). Having an individual conceptualize a subject allows a teacher or researcher to better understand the individual’s initial concepts and misconceptions.

Hazel and Prosser (1994) have used concept maps to identify first year undergraduates students’ conception of photosynthesis. In this study, concept maps have been used before and after teaching about photosynthesis. The students were asked to integrate the 13 concepts into hierarchy and to briefly describe the connections of related concepts. An analysis of concepts connected correctly and the results taken from 10 multiple choice test questions on photosynthesis, researchers have identified students’ misconceptions about photosynthesis.

Songer and Mintzes (1994) have used concept maps and interviews to try to determine students’ misconceptions concerning respiration; they found that the students have some misconceptions concerning the relationship between photosynthesis and respiration, energy transfer and oxygen’s role in respiration.

The concept mapping strategy provides a linkage to prior information with acquired information. In a study to better understand the human heart’s structure and function, the control group was educated without concept maps, but concept maps were used in the experimental groups. The statistics showed the positive effect of concept maps on students (Smith & Dwyer, 1995).

Concept maps help students meaningfully learn concepts. Each concept has a state connected with other ones. The student can draw a meaningful line to link related concepts on the map. He better organizes his learnings and reflects them. This aspect of concept maps is useful in organizing and integrating information, in most parts of the application process, and in connecting the present information structure with the effect of new concepts. Concept maps are effective in showing the connections among concepts. Namely they are tools to be used first in science lessons. Information stays in memory for long time when using concept maps. Because the students differentiate information’s structure and process, meaningful learning can be advanced (Alparslan, Tekkaya & Geban, 2003; Tekkaya, 2003; Novak, Gowin & Johansen; Okebukola, 1990; Sungur, Tekkaya& Geban, 2001; Cakır, Geban & Yürük, 2002; Stoddart, Abrams, Gasper & Canaday, 2000; Slotte & Lonka, 1999).

Bagci-Kilic (2003) has stated that concept maps have been often used by European and American educators, and have focused on the problems sourced from language differences between English and Turkish in the use of concept maps. The researcher has stated that concept maps must be formed by making them appropriate to Turkish language structure and asserted some methos concerning this (Bagci- Kilic, 2003).

Teaching with concept maps provides comprehensive learning and decreases misconceptions. Concept maps are more effective than traditional educationals methods in understanding of concepts. In addition, students exhibited positive attitudes toward concept map use during biology lessons (Sungur, Tekkaya & Geban, 2001).

Concept maps are meaningful learning tools which can be used in the planning, teaching and evaluation in the education of science concepts. (Novak & Canas, 2004). Concept maps made by small groups have the advantage of information transfer from student to student. Concept maps are important tools in stimulating student discussion. The use of concept maps in t groups plays important role in socialization and cognitive development. There is a great deal of room for improvement in conceptual change from existing alternative conceptions. Further experimentation is needed to explore the potential of the conceptual change approach in the educational field may be realized more effectively.


The aim of this study is to investigate the contrubution of concept maps and conceptual change texts on the 11th class (grade?) students’ success in the teaching about molecules carrying genetical information. The specific questions of this study are:

1-What is the effect of traditional teaching method on the students’ understanding of the concepts of molecules carrying genetic information?

2-What is the effect of concept maps given together with conceptual change texts on the students’ understanding of molecules bearing genetic information concepts?

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