ERG SES E 02, Pre-service Teachers and Education
Determining learners’ cognitive structures about a certain domain in science has long been a topic to investigate for researchers all around word. One of the most common ways of eliciting and representing learners’ cognitive structures is using association tests as Tsai and Huang (2002) proposed. The main purpose of word association tasks is to elicit structural knowledge through recalling information.The rationale behind these association tasks can be explained as strongly related words can be more easily retrievable from long-term memory. In word association tests(WAT), students were given some initial stimulus words and asked to generate related words within a determined time period. After completion of the test, the participants’ responses are counted for determining the frequency of recalled concepts (Jonassen, Beissner & Yacci, 1993; Tsai & Huang, 2002). Bahar and his colleagues (1999) indicated that WAT is “a powerful technique that can be used for revealing the type and number of concepts in students’ minds as well as the links between them”. Moreover, diagnosing and determining learners’/students’ cognitive structures may help teachers to design/choose more appropriate teaching strategies which will result in positive outcomes for students (Bahar et al., 2006; Tsai & Huang, 2002).
When the existing literature about WAT examined, it could be seen that it has been frequently used for examining cognitive structure of learners by researchers (see, Bahar, Johnstone & Sutcliffe, 1999). For instance, Bahar and his colleagues (1999) investigated British first-year biology students’ (N=280) cognitive structures of elementary genetics after teaching session of genetics. In another study, Maskill, Cachapuz and Koulaidis (1997) investigated 11- to 12-year old British, Greek and Portuguese students’ cognitive structures out microscopic nature of matter by using WAT.In Turkish context, WAT were used in different science topics. For instance, while Bahar and Özatlı (2003) investigated high school students’ (N=31) cognitive structures about basic components of living things, Ercan, Taşdere and Ercan (2010) explored seventh grade middle school students’ (N=31) cognitive structures about solar system as pre- and post-test before and after instruction. In both study, researchers reported that WATs are important tools for determining cognitive structure, conceptual change and their misconceptions. Nakipoğlu (2008) investigated pre-service elementary science teachers’ (N=40) cognitive structures about atomic structure before and after a general chemistry instruction.She indicated that WAT is a useful tool for identifying conceptual organizations of pre-service teachers.
While there are some studies that focused on participants’ cognitive structures about environment, to date there is limited study conducted about environmental problems by using WAT. Özata-Yucel and Yucel (2014) investigated pre-service science teachers’ (N=112) existing cognitive structures about environment by using WAT. They reported that the pre-service teachers’ cognitive structures about environment consisted of biotic factors, abiotic factors and ecological concepts. In a different study conducted by same researchers (2015) with middle school students’ (N=89) cognitive structures about environmental concepts including environment, species, habitat, pollution, global warming, acid rain, and greenhouse effect; reported that middle school students’ could not able to make strong connections between given stimulus words implying they had superficial knowledge about environmental concepts. In both studies, the data were collected at one point of time. The aforementioned studies were conducted with either pre-service chemistry or science teachers’ or middle school students. With this respect, this study is differentiated from existing studies in some aspects including participants, data collection tools, data collection in different points of time (as pre- and post-test), and the stimulus words used for exploring cognitive structures of participants, as well as investigating course effectiveness. In this study, WAT about environmental problems was administrated to sophomore pre-service primary school teachers (N=67) as pre- and post-test before and after environmental education course.
Bahar, M., & Özatlı, N. S. (2003). Kelime iletişim test yöntemi ile lise 1. sınıf öğrencilerinin canlıların temel bileşenleri konusundaki bilişsel yapılarının araştırılması. Balıkesir Üniversitesi Fen Bilimleri Enstitüsü Dergisi, 5(1), 75-85. Bahar, M., Johnstone, A. H., & Sutcliffe, R. G. (1999). Investigation of students' cognitive structure in elementary genetics through word association tests. Journal of Biological Education, 33(3), 134-141. doi: 10.1080/00219266.1999.9655653 Ercan, F., Taşdere, A., & Ercan, N. (2010). Kelime ilişkilendirme testi aracılığıyla bilişsel yapının ve kavramsal değişimin gözlenmesi [in Turkish]. Türk Fen Eğitimi Dergisi, 7(2), 136-154. Fraenkel, J. R., Wallen, N. E., & Hyun, H. H. (2012). How to design and evaluate research in education (8th Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Jonassen, D. H., Beissner, K., & Yacci, M.A. (1993). Structural knowledge: Techniques for representing, conveying, and acquiring structural knowledge. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Maskill, R., Cachapuz, A. F., & Koulaidis, V. (1997). Young pupils’ ideas about the microscopic nature of matter in three different European countries.International Journal of Science Education, 19(6), 631-645. doi: 10.1080/0950069970190602 Nakiboglu, C. (2008). Using word associations for assessing non major science students’ knowledge structure before and after general chemistry instruction: the case of atomic structure. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 9(4), 309-322. Ozata-Yucel, E., & Özkan, M. (2015). Determination of secondary school students’ cognitive structure, and misconception in ecological concepts through word association test. Educational Research and Reviews, 10(5), 660-674. Ozata-Yücel, E., & Özkan, M. (2014). Fen Bilimleri Öğretmen Adaylarının Çevre Algılarının Kelime İlişkilendirme Aracılığıyla Belirlenmesi [in Turkish]. e-International Journal of Educational Research, 5(4). 41-56. Tsai, C.C., & Huang, C. M. (2002). Exploring students' cognitive structures in learning science: a review of relevant methods, Journal of Biological Education, 36(4), 163-169, doi: 10.1080/00219266.2002.9655827
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