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National core curriculum and biology education in the Finnish secondary school. Anna Uitto Senior lecturer in biology education Department of Applied Sciences of Education University of Helsinki FINLAND. EMBO workshop ‘ From School to University’ 11–13 May 2006, EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany.

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National core curriculum and biology education in the Finnish secondary school

Anna Uitto

Senior lecturer in biology education

Department of Applied Sciences of Education University of HelsinkiFINLAND

embo workshop from school to university 11 13 may 2006 embl heidelberg germany
EMBO workshop ‘From School to University’11–13 May 2006, EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany
  • The aim of this lecture is to describe:
    • What are the general aims and challenges of biology education? What kind of working approaches are suggested?
    • How the development of students’ scientific knowledge, thinking and skills are taken to account in National Core Curriculum of Finnish Secondary School?
back to basics what is the nature of biology as science
Back to basics - what is the nature of biology as science?

The big questions of biology (Ernst Mayr 1997)

For instance:

What? - the structure

  • What is a bird (for instance a swallow)?

How? - the function

How swallows fly? How is a migrant bird?

Why? - the ultimate or proximate reasons for biological phenomena

  • Why swallows fly? Why swallows migrate to Africa? (The ultimate, evolutive reason)
  • Why swallows migratenow? (Proximate reason; e.g. the weather)
what is the nature of biology education
What is the nature of biology education?

Big questions of biology education:

  • Knowledge – what are the essential concepts that should be learned?
  • Thinking skills – how students should learn to use biological concepts?
  • Working skills – how and what students should learn to plan and carry out small-scale biological investigations independently?
  • Interest and attitudes – how to enhance students interest and positive attitudes towards science and work in science?
biological concepts and conceptualization hierarchical knowledge structure
Biological concepts and conceptualizationHierarchical knowledge structure

Concepts are basic units for thinking

  • Human body (structure)

Organ systems

Digestive system

Small intestine

Intestinal cells

Cell organs

Enzymes

  • Human body (function)

Digestion

Degradation of carbon hydrates

Entzymatic activity

  • Human body (evolution)

Mammals

Heterotrophy

Omnivory

Conceptualization is the forming of organized constructions of biological concepts

the difficulties to understand biological concepts examples eloranta et al 2005 and uitto unpubl
Lower secondary school (grades 7- 9)

Cell biology and genetics: cells, mitosis, gene, genetic information, chromosomes, heredity phenomena

Plant physiology; water management of plants

Upper secondary school (grades 10-12)

Anaerobic and aerobic respiration

Human physiology: reproduction, menstruation, relation between the functions of blood circulation and digestion systems

Plant physiology; water management of plants

Biotechnics

Conceptualization, the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ questions:

How energy flows and elements cycle within the nature?

Why photosynthesis is important for the life on earth?

Why fish are adapted to live in the water?

The difficulties to understand biological concepts, examples (Eloranta et al. 2005 and Uitto unpubl.)
dimensions of inquiry based learning modified from wellington 1998

CLOSED PROBLEM

(one working approach, one right answer)

STRUCTURED AND GUIDED WORKING

(Control in every stage of working)

STUDENT-CENTERED

(the student formulates the research questions)

TEACHER-CENTERED

(the teacher formulates the research questions)

UNSTRUCTURED WORKING

(No guidelines, no control of working)

OPEN PROBLEM

(many working approaches, several solution possibilities)

Dimensions of ‘inquiry-based learning’ (modified from Wellington 1998)

‘Traditional approach’

‘Constructivistic approach’

example of inquiry based learning environment modified from 5e model by r bybee 2004
Teacher

Engage: demonstrates the phenomenon, arouses curiosity

Explore: helps to carry out investigation

Explain: Connect students explanations to science, scientific explanations

Elaborate: Helps students to transfer their new knowledge and skills to similar situations

Evaluate: Assess students learning and own work

Students

Engage; meet kognitive conflict, want to know more, state questions, hypotheses, team work

Explore: make their own small- scale investigations, report the results

Explain: Describe the results and causalities, make concepts

Elaborate: Try to adjust their new knowledge and skill in new situations

Evaluate: Assess own learning and what has been learned

Example of inquiry-based learning environment; modified from 5E model by R.Bybee (2004)
problem based learning pbl example 1 how abiotic factors regulate plant growth 2 2 experiment
Problem-based learning (PBL) Example 1‘How abiotic factors regulate plant growth?’ 22 - experiment

Experimental unit 2

Experimental unit 1

Experimental unit 3

Experimental unit 4

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Problem-based learning (PBL) Example 2“What would happen to the fish in the closed enclosure within a day, week or month?”

Light

Light, plant, other fish

Light, plants

Darkness, plant, other fish

slide11
National Core Curriculum and biology education
  • How the development of students’ knowledge and analytical thinking are taken into account in biology education?
  • What kind of working approaches are suggested?
the structure of national core curriculum
Biology education in the lower secondary school is defined by

National Core Curriculum for Basic Education (2004)

Biology education in the upper secondary school is defined by

National Core Curriculum for Secondary Schools (2003)

Assessment

During the course of studies

During a biology course (diagnostic, formal)

After the course (summative)

In the end of a grade (progress in in studies)

Final assessment at the end of the comprehensive school and the upper secondary school

The grade depicts the level of performance

10=excellent, 9=very good, 8=good, 7=satisfactory,

6=moderate, 5=adequate, 4=fail

Verbal assessment

The structure of National Core Curriculum
national core curriculum for basic education grades 7 9
National Core Curriculum for Basic EducationGrades 7-9
  • Goals of instruction:
    • Develop pupils knowledge of nature
    • Understanding of basic natural phenomena
    • Environmental awareness and responsibility
  • Gore contents:
    • Introduction to evolution
    • Fundamentals of ecology
    • Structure and function of human being
    • Environmental protection
  • Biology instruction:
    • Inquiry-based learning
    • Develop thinking skills in natural sciences
    • Observation and investigation of nature
    • Positive experiences of nature studies
national core curriculum for basic education core contents in biology education for grades 7 9
National Core Curriculum for Basic EducationCore contents in biology education for grades 7-9
  • Compulsory courses have to contain core contents:
    • Nature and ecosystems
    • Life and evolution
    • The human being
    • The common environment
  • Inquiry-based approach is assumed at least:
    • Independent research on one ecosystem
    • Investigating the status of, and changes in, one’s immediate environment
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National Core Curriculum for Basic EducationFinal assessment criteria for a grade of 8 (good)Grades 7-9
  • Biology study skills
    • use microscope when studying samples
    • work in a laboratory in accordance with the instructions given
    • how to collect plants as directed
    • carry out small-scale investigations independently (forest, aquatic or marsh ecosystems)
  • Nature and ecosystems
  • Life and evolution
  • The human being
  • The common environment
national core curriculum for secondary schools grades 10 12
National Core Curriculum for Secondary schoolsGrades 10-12

General goals

  • Provide students with an understanding;
    • of the structure and development of organic world
    • human being as a part of organic world and the significance of human activity to the environment
    • the opportunities of the life sciences to promote the well-being of humanity, other living organisms, and living environments
  • Instruction will develop;
    • students scientific thinking
    • arouse their interest in the life sciences
    • encourage them to behave an environmentally responsible manner so as to sustain natural diversity
national core curriculum for secondary schools compulsory courses for grades 10 12
National Core Curriculum for Secondary schoolsCompulsory courses for grades 10-12

1. Organic world (BI1)

Core contents

  • Biology as science
  • Manifestations of natural diversity
  • Evolution – the development of life
  • How does nature work?

2. Cells and heredity (BI2)

Core contents

  • The cell as a basic unit of life
  • Cell energy metabolism
  • Regulation of cell functions
  • Cell reproduction
  • Basics of inheritance
  • Population genetics and the synthetic theory of evolution
national core curriculum for secondary schools speciation courses for grades 10 12
National Core Curriculum for Secondary schoolsSpeciation courses for grades 10-12

1. Environmental ecology (BI3) – core contents

  • Ecological research
  • Biodiversity and its significance
  • Ecological environmental problems, reasons and potential solutions
  • Vulnerability of Finnish nature
  • A sustainable future

2. Human biology (BI4) - core contents

  • Special characteristics of human cells and tissues
  • Structures, functions and significance of organ systems
  • Regulation of vital functions
  • Human reproduction
  • Significance of genetic heritage
  • Adaptation and defence mechanisms of organ systems
national core curriculum for secondary schools speciation courses for grades 10 121
National Core Curriculum for Secondary schoolsSpeciation courses for grades 10-12

3. Biotechnolgy (BI5) - Core contents

  • Cell ultrastructure and intercellular communication
  • Cells as protein-makers
  • Gene functions
  • Genetic engineering and its opportunities
  • Microbes and their significance
  • Industrial technology
  • Plant and animal breeding
  • Ethics and legislation in genetic engineering
national core curriculum for secondary schools 2003 assessment
National Core Curriculum for Secondary schools2003 Assessment

Compare to EMBO question: ‘What knowledge and skills do school-leavers need in order to embark on a university degree in the biosciences, and later turn into good researchers?

Knowledge assessment

  • Abilities to master and use key biological concepts
  • Applying biological knowledge
  • Understanding the laws of natural science and causal relationships
  • Insight into the significance of interdependencies
  • Perception of extensive wholes

Skills assessment

  • Aptitude for scientific work
  • Team behaviour
  • Ability to use different sources for acquisition of biological information
  • Assess information critically
  • Proven interest in different areas of biology may also be taken into account as part of assessment
conclusions i
Conclusions I

“What knowledge is important and what analyticalthinking must they develop at school?”

  • Knowledge and concepts
    • understanding of biological concepts
    • conceptualization of biological entities
  • The nature of biology as science
    • understanding biology as science (what, how, why questions)
    • how biology differs from chemistry and physics, and what they have in common
  • Scientific method
    • skills to state questions about biological phenomena
    • skills to plan and carry out small-scale experiments
    • skills to independent work and skills to team work
  • Motivation and interest to know and learn more on biological phenomena
conclusions ii
Conclusions II

What could biology education in the secondary school offer?

  • Expert teachers
    • high-quality teacher education in the university; subject mastery, good skills in biology education
  • High-quality teaching and learning environments at school; basic working facilities (laboratory and field work equipments)
  • High-quality teaching and learning material for teachers and students
  • Possibilities to out-of-school education: visits, co-operation and learning for instance in biological research institutions (Uitto et al. 2006)
  • Information on possibilities of research in biology as future career
references
References:
  • Bybee, R. W. (2004). Scientific Inquiry and Science Teaching. In L. Flick, L. & N. G.Lederman (Eds.), Scientific inquiry and nature of science implications forteaching, learning, and teacher education (volume 25, pp. 1 – 14). Series: Science & Technology Education Library, Dordrecht: Kluwer.
  • Eloranta, V., Jeronen, E., Palmberg, I. (2005). ‘Make biology living. The dicactics of biology’. [Biologia eläväksi. Biologian didaktiikka]. Jyväskylä: PS-kustannus, 312 - 317. In Finnish.
  • Mayr, E. (1997). This is Biology: The Science of the Living World. Harvard University Press.
  • Wellington, J. 1998. Secondary Science. Contemporary issues and Practical Approaches. London: Routledge.
  • National Core Curriculum for Basic Education 2004. Finnish National Board of Education.
  • National Core Curriculum for Secondary Schools 2003. Finnish National Board of Education.
  • Uitto, A., Juuti, K., Lavonen, J. & Meisalo, V. (2006) Students interest in biology and their out-of-school experiences. Journal of Biology education: 124-129 (in press).
applying in faculty of bioscieces university of helsinki
Applying in Faculty of Bioscieces, University of Helsinki
  • Student selection in different degree programs, requirements:
    • Marticulation examination in upper secondary school
      • Points can be attained from examination in biology, chemistry, physics and geography (degree program in biology)
      • Points can be attained from examination of biology, chemistry and physics (degree programs in biochemistry and Biotechnology Master Programme (HEBIOT)
      • Entrance examination