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An Exploration of Senior High School Student Learning in Biology in Taiwan

This thesis explores senior high school student learning in biology in Taiwan. The Confucian-heritage culture and beliefs associated with high stakes examinations influences the learning context in biology. There is a considerable body of international research on teaching and learning in senior high biology. There appears to be limited research on student and teacher views of learning in biology in this context. A social constructivist view of learning underpins this study. Using an interpretive paradigm, this study explores student and teacher perceptions of student learning experiences in senior high school biology. There are three phases in this study. In the first phase, Grade 11 and Grade 12 students and teacher perceptions of the existing teaching and learning situation in biology was explored. In the second phase, an intervention was designed and implemented for Grade 12 students. In the third phase, the intervention was evaluated. The findings of this study indicate that most students take biology to increase their options for entering tertiary education. Noticeably, they were using learning approaches that they most disliked to increase their biology marks. Most of them considered the current biology classes were very effective in coping with the major examination, but the teaching was monotonous and teaching content as seemingly unrelated to real life. The teachers perceived that student learning was passive, which contributed to the teachers feeling of exhaustion. Qualitative and quantitative data indicated that both the students and teachers were dissatisfied with the current teaching and learning situation. A more interactive teaching and learning approach and more student responsibility in investigations were suggested by the respondents. An intervention programme based on a social constructivist view of learning, including interactive teaching and open investigation, was designed and implemented. The intervention (70% lecture classes and 30% experiment classes) problematised the traditional lesson structure (90% lecture classes and 10% experiment classes) of senior biology in Taiwan, seeking a more cohesive and integrated overall structure for learning biology. Evaluation of the intervention programme suggested that through student-teacher and student-student interactions student conceptual and procedural understanding of biology was facilitated and their attitudes towards learning were enhanced. A few of the students could not accept the intervention as it conflicted with their view of learning in an examination culture. The implications of this research are that more teacher-student and peer interactions and open-ended investigations can lead to enhanced learning in biology in Taiwan for most senior high school students. Social constructivist approaches to teaching and learning are viable in a Taiwanese biology classroom context. The study also showed the potential for open investigations in this context.
Type of thesis
Lu, T.-N. (2006). An Exploration of Senior High School Student Learning in Biology in Taiwan (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2632
The University of Waikato
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