2020 Poster

“What would that cell look like?” : Findings from clay-modeling activities with teachers and students

Charudatta Navare1, Chaitanya Ursekar2 & Joseph Salve3

Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR, Mumbai, India 1, 2, 3

The poster was presented on 27th May 2020

The concept of a cell is a foundational concept in biology and is considered to be among the Benchmarks for Science Literacy. There is an extensive literature in biology education research on the challenges faced while understanding this concept. These challenges include an understanding of the scale, dimensionality and the relationship between structure and function. Here we address the problems of visualizing the cell (three-dimensional image of the cell) and understanding structure-function relationships in the cell.

To this end, we have developed an instructional sequence which involves the use of clay modelling and guided discussions on the relationship between structure and function. Our sequence was refined over the course of 4 workshops conducted with teachers in the Eklavya Maharashtra project. We then conducted sessions with teachers from Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV), and for students in Atomic Energy Central School (AECS). We collected data in the form of notes, audio and video recordings. In this paper, we report preliminary findings from this study. We observed the persistence of the textbook image of the cell as well as the textbook terminology.

We also found both teachers and students using a reference-oriented strategy to build cell models, rather than a combinatorial strategy. Finally, we also note instances of exploratory imagination (Anderson, Dupre, & Wakefield, 2019) such as the realization that endoplasmic reticulum would be membrane-enclosed sacs, or questioning whether the textbook diagram is a longitudinal section or transverse section.

Based on these findings, we attempt to characterize the affordances that physical models provide for learning, and discuss some ideas for future work.