Mapping biological ideas: Concepts maps as knowledge integration tools for human evolution

Congratulations to Dr. Beat Schwendimann on his successful completion of his dissertation entitled: Mapping biological ideas: Concepts maps as knowledge integration tools for human evolution

Abstract: One of the most central ideas of biology, the theory of evolution, has been found difficult to understand as it incorporates a wide range of ideas from different areas and multiple interacting levels. Research suggests that learners can hold a rich repertoire of co-existing alternative ideas of evolution, especially of human evolution. This dissertation research investigates how different concept mapping forms embedded in a collaborative technology-enhanced learning environment can support students’ integration of evolution ideas using case studies of human evolution. This dissertation research describes the iterative development of a novel biology-specific form of concept maps, called Knowledge Integration Maps (KIM), that aims to help learners connect ideas across levels towards an integrated understanding of evolution. Using a design-based research approach, three iterative studies were implemented in authentic classrooms using the WISE platform. Findings suggest that concept maps are sensitive to different levels of knowledge integration but require scaffolding and revision. The combination of generating and critiquing KIMs can improve integrating evolution ideas but can be time-consuming. Critiquing KIMs has been found a time-efficient alternative to generating KIMs. This dissertation research demonstrates that embedded collaborative KIM activities can be effective learning tools for evolution through a combination of scaffolded inquiry activities using dynamic visualisations and explanation activities.

Dissertation Supervisor: Marica C. Linn

Currently, Beat is a Postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sydney at the Centre for Research on Computer-supported Learning and Cognition (CoCo).

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