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Critical aspects of Understanding of the Structure and Function of the Cell Membrane: Students' interpretation of visualizations of transport through the cell membrane
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning.
Responsible organisation
2008 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The aim for this research report is to categorize and describe students’ conceptions about the structure and function of the cell membrane from a phenomenographic and variation theory perspective. Students’ ability to understand different concepts depends on their ability to comprehend certain critical features of the content. The critical feature of understanding the structure of the cell membrane investigated here is the polar and non-polar properties of molecules. The critical feature of understanding the function of the cell membrane is transport through the cell membrane. Another aim is to investigate what animations, concerning cellular transport, can contribute to teaching and students understanding of the cell membrane. Furthermore, a subordinated aim is to distinguish whether there are any existing differences and similarities between South Africa and Sweden in consideration to students’ conceptions about the cell membrane.

Two different methods of data collection, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, were used in this investigation. 80 students participated in the questionnaire and 5 students participated in the interviews.

Four categories of conceptions about the characteristics of polar and non-polar molecules have been identified. Furthermore, one of the most remarkable and notable findings discovered are that most teachers and students are not aware of the current scientific view on how water molecules are transported through the cell membrane. Knowledge about aquaporines, discovered by Agre in 1992, seems to be almost non-existing in science education in upper secondary school, in Sweden and South Africa as well. Furthermore, students experience animations to be complex and which in some cases seem to be regarded as messy representation. Simultaneously they strongly emphasise the need for animations to support learning and remembering. Animations can be seen as a source of variation in teaching. The conceptions described occurred both among the South African students as well among the Swedish students. Also similarities concerning students’ conceptions have been discerned between the two countries investigated. For example there could be that South African students possess a richer understanding for the concept of the cell membrane than the Swedish students, but find it more difficult to move between different contexts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. , 58 p.
Keyword [en]
Cell membrane, Visualizations, Molecular life science education, Variation theory.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-11045ISRN: LIU-LÄR-L-EX--07/178--SEOAI: diva2:25027
Subject / course
Graduation Thesis in the Teacher Programme, Linköping
2008-01-17, 00:00 (English)
Social and Behavioural Science, Law
Available from: 2008-12-11 Created: 2008-11-26 Last updated: 2012-04-24Bibliographically approved

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