|M.Sc Student||Hussein-Farraj Rania|
|Subject||Computerized Molecular Modeling as Means for Enhancing|
Students' Understanding of Protein Structures and
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Professor Miriam Barak|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
For several years, the Chemistry Committee of the Israeli Ministry of Education is leading a curricular change according to innovative educational theories. The new curriculum emphasizes the enhancement of higher order thinking instead of rote learning and memorization of concepts. Our study focused on the new biochemistry learning unit that was recently introduced to high- school students as part of their studies for the matriculation examination in chemistry. The learning unit goals were to connect biochemistry learning to students' daily living, introduce leading scientific innovations, and promote in- depth understanding of the function and 3D structure of bio- molecules, via computerized molecular modeling. The development and implementation of the biochemistry learning unit was accompanied by a study. The studies' goal was threefold. First goal was to examine whether, and to what extent, learning via computerized models affect students' understanding of biochemistry and their ability to transfer: a. across the four levels of chemistry understanding- microscopic, macroscopic, symbolic and process, and b. across different forms of molecular representations. Second goal was to examine students` learning process as they carried out the CMM assignments. Third goal was to examine the experimental teachers` attitudes towards the use of CMM. The applied mixed- method research included both qualitative and quantitative tools (interviews, class observations and questionnaires respectively). The research participants included a representative sample of 175 honors 12 th grade students from Jewish, Arab and Druze sectors. They were divided into three comparative groups: (a) new curriculum with student's hands- on practice of computerized modeling, (b) new curriculum with teacher's demonstrations of computerized modeling, (c) traditional curriculum without the use of computerized modeling. Findings indicated that students who studied via CMM promoted their ability to transfer across the different molecular representation forms and to transfer across the four levels of chemistry understanding. In addition, experimental students and the teachers found that learning and teaching via CMM is interesting, motivating, and that it enables a better understanding of spatial structures of macromolecules. The presented research is innovative in embedding knowledge representation tools that enables 3D manipulation, within technology- enhanced instruction of biochemistry. The new curriculum, as oppose to traditional teacher- centered curriculum, adopts the 'investigative- approach' to biochemistry studies. In addition, the research is unique in its interdisciplinary nature, focusing on students' conceptual understanding, both from the chemical and biological aspects. Our findings suggest that an effort should be made to allow individual use of CMM, in oppose to teacher's demonstrations.