1 Tallinn University (ESTONIA)
2 University of Tartu (ESTONIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 1353-1360
ISBN: 978-84-617-2484-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
During recent years a number of new learning and teaching methods have been propagated in science education. Many of these have been in response to the well-known challenge of displacing rote learning by more meaningful approaches to learning, as described by David Ausubel. In this, learning meaningfully is taken to mean being able to:

• organize knowledge structures of relevant information;
• possess an emotional and personal commitment to make connections between new and existing knowledge;
• conceptualize and illustrate a clear understanding of the subject.

Nevertheless, the results of different studies have shown that many students have difficulties to understand concepts and fundamental ideas in the natural sciences. Unfortunately, most teachers and school systems focus on getting high scores though different tests with understanding, reasoning and analytical skills being ignored. With this in mind, in addition to using new teaching methods, the use of new assessment methods are taken to be important.

Noting that the concept of scientific literacy has changed to become more and more comprehensive, this study shows how the use of concept mapping could contribute, in addition to well-known assessment methods, in assessing students’ scientific literacy. The quantity and quality of the information gained through using concept mapping could also be structured to the learning desired.

The research question for this study is:
Do students possessing different levels of scientific literacy create different concept maps?

Concept mapping was used as an assessment method in a large-scale study, carried out in the period 2011-2014. The total student sample in the study was 1614 students, although for this specific research question a sub-sample of 343 students were involved. The student first solved a PISA-like, scenario-based test related to biology. The test had several multiple choice and open-ended questions at different cognitive levels. After taking the test, the students created concept maps related to the same concepts as covered by the test. Students were provided with 30 given concepts which they could use to create their own concept maps.
Based on outcomes from PISA-like test, the students were grouped into four groups. Differences in concept maps between these four groups were then researched. The results showed significant differences in map size, structure and also content between the groups. There were also significant differences in using different concepts and the manner in which the concept were centralized.

The study showed that there was a strong correlation between students’ levels of scientific literacy and the different concept maps created.
Concept map, scientific literacy, assessment.