טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentHagay Galit
SubjectListening to the Students Voice: Incorporating Students
Interests into the Formal Biology Curriculum
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisors Professor Ayelet Baram-Tsabari
Professor Emeritus Abraham Berman
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


Abstract

The gap between the prescribed contents of the curriculum and questions that preoccupy students often leads to a feeling of learning out of necessity rather than out of internal motivation. The basic assumption that underlies this study is that a structured and planned incorporation of students' interest into the teaching could be a solution to this problem. The theoretical framework for the project is the Self Determination Theory (SDT) which claims that humans have three innate needs sustaining intrinsic motivation: 1) need for competence, 2) need for relatedness, and 3) need for autonomy. Therefore a teaching intervention that can address these needs should positively contribute to the internal motivation to learn.

The study was conducted using a mixed quantitative and qualitative methods approach. Data included questions raised by hundreds of high school students, open and closed questionnaires examining parameters of interest, motivation and attitudes, interviews with teachers and students; teacher questionnaires and classroom observations. A model for incorporating students' interests into high school biology teaching was developed and tested. Teachers' and students' attitudes towards this model were examined.

Findings indicate that half the questions students raised in topics in biology were not addressed by the biology curriculum covering the same topics. Biology teachers' testimonies showed that they reduce this gap by addressing half the questions not addressed by the curriculum during their classroom teaching. The reasons teachers address these questions included promotion of literacy in their subject matter and compliance with the curriculum. The study also found that questions that interest students in Israel also interest students in Turkey, Portugal and England. The questions that were of most interest related to human health, new developments in genetics and reproduction, and were mostly questions that invited further discussion. In cases were a gender difference was found, girls showed a higher interest than boys.

Five teachers enacted an experimental model that identifies student questions and incorporates them into the enacted curriculum. Following the interventions evidence was found for increased feelings of competence, autonomy and relatedness. A longitudinal enactment of the model increased the cognitive level of students' questions.

The research offers a practical way of enriching the curriculum while being attentive and sensitive to students' experience. In light of the findings, I do not propose changing the content of the curriculum to suit students' desires, but rather to build on what students want to know in order to teach what they have to learn.