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    Comprehension of biological evolution by high school biology teachers in Singapore
    According to research studies, the topic of biological evolution proved to be extremely difficult to teach and to learn in schools. One possible reason for this situation was the lack of subject matter knowledge competence in this topic by biology teachers. Indeed, competence in subject matter knowledge (SMK) has been shown to be a central feature of the teaching profession. This study had hoped to determine the level of comprehension of biological evolution by Singapore high school biology teachers in which there is a dearth of information at the local level. Results of this study has important implications for teaching and learning evolution, teacher education and re-education.

    A five option multiple-choice questionnaire with 24 questions on evolution and 12 on ecology was devised to ascertain the teachers' levels of comprehension in biological evolution. The results of the ability scores from a total of 52 teachers ranged from 3.53 to -0.56 logits (M=1.12 logits,SD=0.97); that of senior high or junior college (JC) teachers (n=12) ranged from 3.53 to 0.33 logits, and for junior high or secondary teachers (n=40) from3.01 to -0.56 logits (M=0.89 logits, SD=0.86). Mean total score in the achievement test for JC (M=79.4% or 1.86 logits, SD=1.0) and secondary school teachers (M=66.6% or 0.89 logits, SD=0.9) were significantly higher in favour of JC teachers (p<0.005). Similarly, JC teacher scores over the sub-section of evolution were significantly higher (p<0.001) than secondary teachers but not so with respect to ecology items. Lower ability teachers (mainly secondary school teachers) seemed also to experience greater difficulty with questions pertaining to evolution rather than on ecology.

    Secondary school and JC teachers were found to be quite alike in terms of background variables like age, gender, teaching experience, number of years since graduation, religious affiliation, membership of professional organisations, academic qualifications, and past educational experience in evolution and ecology. JC teachers seemed to have a significantly greater number of years (p<0.05) of teaching pure biology compared to secondary teachers. Negative correlation existed between years of teaching pure biology in JC teachers and performance in the achievement test although there was moderate positive correlation between these variables among the secondary teachers. About 60% of JC teachers felt that they had mastered ecology and evolution in their present teaching job while the majority of secondary teachers indicated mastery at the time when they studied at the university. Analysis of achievement test scores from a sample of 24 pre-service student teachers supported the possibility that teaching and learning on-the-job as biology specialists in the academically demanding college environment contributed to higher scores in the achievement test for JC teachers. This had translated into significantly greater (p<0.005) actual coverage and emphasis given to evolution by JC teachers than by secondary school teachers. Similarly, the intended coverage and emphasis by JC teachers were significantly more (p<0.05) than that of secondary teachers.

    Analysis of the achievement test results revealed specific instances of misconceptions or alternative conceptions. These inappropriate concepts were more often spotted amongst the answers by the secondary teachers than the JC ones. The alternative conceptions included three main key concepts, namely;

    The Theory of Evolution in General, Speciation, and Natural Selection which are discussed in detail in this study.
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    Literacy in learning science: A Vygotskian approach
    (Office of Education Research, National Institute of Education, Singapore, 2024) ;
    Hwang, Sungwon
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    Kim, Mijung
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    Wolff-Michael, Roth
    The purpose of this research project is to study the development of literacy in learning Science from a Vygotskian perspective. The concept of literacy in this research project is theorized by considering the real act of communicating Science. We studied the following research questions. First, what is the role of everyday language in learning scientific language? And how does collaborative communication develop in Science class in the course of developing scientific understanding? Second, how do scientific artefacts interface with (non-) verbal communication and conceptual understanding? Third, what are the forms of literacy that increase the possibility for people to learn Science and experience their Self differently?
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  • Publication
    Open Access
    Latent power in high school organic chemistry discourse
    (2006-11)
    Chue, Shien
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    ;
    This paper draws on Foucault to (a) describe the production of classroom discourse in relation to how ordering manifests within the discourse, and (b) to explicate how chemistry classroom discourses are not fixed but are the site of constant contestations of power as displayed in an eighty minute high school lesson on organic chemistry in Singapore. This microanalysis of discourse provides opportunities to reconstruct how teachers teach and dispels the notion that power is uniquely their sovereign possession. Classroom instruction is in fact a complex activity that coordinates power/knowledge production through communication. Examining classroom instruction through Foucaultian lenses uncovers the taken for granted nature of communication and illustrates the capillary relations of power and knowing.
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    Open Access
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  • Publication
    Open Access
    Misconceptions on the biological concept of food: Results of a survey of high school students
    (1998-11) ;
    Diong, Cheong Hoong
    A questionnaire survey was administered to 66 secondary 5 Normal level students in Singapore to sample students' ideas on the scientific concept of food in school biology. Between 30% to 60% of the respondents believed that food yielded energy but this concept was context dependent and not widespread. Primary responses predominated as students felt that the biological functions of food were for sustenance, satiation, growth and general well-being. They seemed to hold a simplistic view that anything that was consumable (edible) was considered to be a food. More than 75% of the sample accepted the idea that food can be in liquid state. Students' understanding of the biological concept of food was anthropocentric and not applied across living organisms in heterotrophs (animals) or autotrophs (plants) as a whole. The components of a balanced diet were understood but many students confused the concepts of nutrients and water, believing the latter to be a food.
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  • Publication
    Open Access
    Illuminating mental representations-use of gestures in teaching and assessing understanding of college biology
    (2009-11)
    Lim, Yian Hoon
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    Does nonverbal cues increase the propensity of teachers’ instructive discourse and at the same time assesses students’ cognitive construction of knowledge? The researches that attest to the effectiveness of gestures are by far those conducted on younger children. Few of such research have been done on college students and in Science subjects. As such a randomized pretest-posttest control group quasi-experimental design of 14 matched pairs were tasked to watch one of the two videotaped lessons on a topic in Biology. In the video-cum-slides-plus-gesture lesson, the teacher produced gestures to illustrate concepts while in the video-cum-slides-only lesson the teacher did not produce any gestures. In a post-test of 10 Multiple-Choice-Questions attempted by these 28 students, students who watched video-cum-slides-only lesson scored a mean of 7.6 while students who watched video-cum-slides-plus-gesture lesson scored a mean of 6.2. 7 of these matched pairs further underwent a feedback session with the teacher while the other 7 did not. A follow up test showed that students who had feedback given scored higher and progressed from a discordant stage of gesture-speech mismatch to the concordant stage of gesture-speech match of a right concept while those without feedback regressed.
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    Comparing science learning outcomes from Singapore and New South Wales, Australia, using Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy
    (2019)
    Ang, Geok Xing
    Science learning outcomes from Singapore and New South Wales, Australia, were coded using Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy from primary to pretertiary levels. Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy allows the intellectual demands of learning outcomes to be classified into six cognitive processes and four types of knowledge. The employment of Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy offered fresh insights into the intellectual demands of official science curricula from these two high-performing states. Analyses were done to understand how the intellectual demands vary across different subjects and educational levels, within each educational system. Comparisons were also made between the curriculum of the two states for each corresponding level and subject.
    This study found that learning objectives in the Singapore curriculum were clustered at the three lowest cognitive processes, whereas conceptual knowledge predominates in the knowledge domain. The New South Wales science curriculum covers a wider range of cognitive processes as compared to Singapore’s, with ‘Apply’ being the dominant cognitive process for most educational levels. In the knowledge domain, conceptual and procedural knowledge accounted for the majority of learning objectives. In both systems, syllabuses at higher educational levels have higher cognitive demand. The cognitive processes and type of knowledge involved are also influenced by the nature of the subjects.
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  • Publication
    Open Access
    Knowledge work in science
    (National Institute of Education (Singapore), 2017)
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