experiences such as farming and experience in science and technology
(Uitto et al., 2006) and practical work and fieldwork, particularly for
enhancing the interest of males (Prokop et al., 2007). However, one
must not lose sight of the intricate relationship between the cognitive
and motivational aspects. Hence, research studies would have to focus
on both cognition and motivation at the same time.
An additional consideration in this research agenda: it would be
difficult to envisage that any teaching or learning approach, no matter how promising it appears to be, can fit the needs of all students.
Future research from the three perspectives discussed here should
also address the differences across gender, age, ability level, and culture as informed by research findings to date.
Therefore, from the perspectives discussed here, several future
research questions and approaches might be suggested to assist in
breaking down barriers. These include:
• How may teachers be encouraged to reflect on their conceptions
about teaching biology to bring them more in line with more
active learning approaches based on constructivist learning?
• How can teachers use teaching approaches to guide students
through the hierarchy of biological knowledge at various levels
• How can biology teacher educators most effectively model these
teaching approaches in methods courses?
• How can beginning teachers be helped to reconcile the apparent conflict between student-centered approaches and school
curriculum contexts that are not conducive to the implementation of these approaches?
• Research to establish the interaction between cognition and
metacognition in the context of biology learning, and the teaching strategies for enhancing students’ metacognition such as
awareness and evaluation of their own learning processes.
• How can biology teachers can be encouraged to reflect on their
beliefs about instruction and how those beliefs came into existence, what impact they have on teaching processes, and how
these processes could be improved?
• Consideration of the merits or demerits of aligning biology education with two recent movements in science education—SSI (
socio-scientific issue) education and STEM education—by using SSIs
and engineering design, respectively, as contexts for promoting
conceptual learning and scientific reasoning.
The Challenge of Developing Teachers’
Pedagogical Knowledge with Respect to
Language in Biology Education
Clas Olander, Malmö University, Sweden
Investigations into the didactics of biology focus on questions
like what, how, and why biology is taught and learned. The aim is
to encourage the examination of unanswered questions related to
the development of teachers’ pedagogical knowledge. First, I will
suggest reasons why we should do this, then mention some impor-
tant and under-researched questions, and end by discussing how
this might be accomplished through professional development.
Students’ learning depends on many background factors such as
the learners’ social, cultural, and language background, but if the aim
of schooling is to balance inequalities, research endeavors should
investigate impacts from school itself, and that would logically cen-
ter on the teacher factor, specifically on the skills possessed by teach-
ers. Hattie (2012) reminds us that enhancing teacher competence is
not rooted in increasing subject-matter knowledge, but instead on
the ways that teachers introduce, organize, and scaffold learning
experience related to biology content. In other words, teachers’ ped-
agogical knowledge and competence should be targeted. This aligns
nicely with how Shulman (1986, p. 13) describes professional teach-
ers as those who are “capable not only of practicing and understand-
ing his or her craft, but of communicating the reasons for
professional decisions and actions to others.” This implies that the
quality of pedagogical knowledge is best perceived as enacted com-
petence in classroom practice.
The Role of Language in Biology Instruction
When it comes to what kind of knowledge should therefore be developed, I suggest alignment with the idea “disciplinary literacy in biology,” which means investigations that focus more on “content-based
language teaching” (Dalton-Puffer, 2011), since learning biology
involves learning to master and appropriate the specific language
of school biology. Language in biology classrooms is a particularly
challenging issue and is characterized by multimodality (e.g., representations, models, metaphors, formulas) and the use of specific
words and semantic patterns (Lemke, 1990). According to Brown
and Ryoo (2008), the combination of content and language components together enhance students’ conceptual understanding.
Terms used in biology can be grouped in three categories:
(a) biology-exclusive terms, (b) words found both in biology and
elsewhere, but with different meanings, and (c) general language. Biol-ogy-exclusivity implies words only used in the science of biology (e.g.,
“allopatric,” “genotype,” and “stroma”). Understanding these concepts is
important, and misunderstanding can block making meaning. Second,
we have terms in biology that have other connotations in other contexts.
Terms such as “adapt,” “cycle,” and “energy” can confuse learners
since these terms have different meaning in everyday language. For
example, students could arrive at school by “cycling,” but in the biology classroom “cycling” is also associated with “life cycle” or the
cycling of matter. Even the word “adapt” can be problematic; consider adaptation in evolution and in muscle function. The third group
of expressions are general academic terms such as “converted,” “
proceeds,” and “originates.” These words must be understood in biology
contexts or they can communicate meaning poorly. All three word-type categories of will cause problems for learners generally but are
particularly troublesome for second-language speakers (Gibbons,
2003). Teacher must understand how language influences learning
and develop strategies to enhance students’ successful appreciation
of appropriate scientific language on the continuum between daily
and scientific use (Schleppegrell, 2016).
Hattie (2012) implies that research into these areas might occur in
a collegial learning environment, leading to the proposal of “design
research” agendas (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012) in which school-based teachers “own” authentic practice and engage in iterative cycles
of planning, enactment, and evaluation of teaching and learning (for
examples in genetics and nature of science, see Olander & Holmqvist,
2013; Holmqvist & Olander, 2017). This is not unlike the lesson-study model commonly used in Japan and frequently practiced