Academic biologists’ conceptions of biology education

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University of New Brunswick


This study explored the variation in academic biologists’ conceptions of biology education. Rather than being based on a hypothesis or prediction, the study’s starting point was the self-reflection of a biologist/biology teacher/science educator who was interested in placing her own experiences with biology education within the realm of biologists who teach and carry out research at universities. The study followed a phenomenographic approach designed to map the terrain of academic biologists’ understanding of the phenomenon of biology education. Data were acquired through semi-structured interviews with eleven academic biologists from seven universities in Canada. The study’s outcome space is inclusive of six categories of description. Three categories express an understanding of biology teaching: - biology teaching is bound by the discipline-based curriculum/syllabus and related pedagogy; - biology teaching varies within levels of the education system; - biology teaching is an extension of academic biologist’s own experiences with biology as a study subject, as a science discipline and as a career. Three categories express an understanding of biology learning: - biology learning results from doing biology through preferred process and place; - biology learning is related to the person who guides or mentors the student; - biology learning is multiple discovery related to circumstance and opportunity. The outcome space has implications for the secondary biology curriculum from the perspective of curriculum development, school biology teachers and academic biologists themselves.