Title page for ETD etd-02092006-120752

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Aldous, Colleen Michelle
Email aldousc@ukzn.ac.za
URN etd-02092006-120752
Document Title University level genetics studentsí competencies in selected science process skills
Degree MSc (Genetics)
Department Genetics
Advisor Name Title
Prof J M Rogan Committee Chair
Prof B D Wingfield Committee Co-Chair
  • no key words available
Date 2005-07-24
Availability unrestricted
Science process skills are essential for all practicing scientists. These skills include various practices that are needed to glean new knowledge as well as to represent existing knowledge. For example, an ability to use mathematics to represent relationships between variables is important in any scientific discipline. Furthermore, understanding scientific method is imperative in any research field. In addition, being literate with tabulated and graphical data is not only important for the scientistís understanding of data, but also for the representation of data in a coherent manner for peer review and knowledge dissemination. Unfortunately these skills are often not explicitly taught in science discipline courses, but instead many course designers assume that students already have these skills. Research has shown however, that this can be a wrong assumption as graduate students sometimes display a shortfall in science process skills.

The research presented in this thesis focused on assessing genetics student competencies in some of the science process skills required by practicing geneticists. The research questions sought to investigate the status of studentsí abilities in some science process skills, whether they improve throughout the undergraduate careers of the students and which factors might impact on student performance in the skills. The study is introduced in the first chapter with a rationale for the study along with a statement of the significance of the research goals. The term Ďscience process skillsí is expounded and examples are given.

Chapter two contains a review of the literature on science process skills. The historical development of science and the inclusion of science process skills as an integral part of the scientific discipline are related in order to emphasise the importance of science process skills. The current status of the science process skills literature is examined and it is shown that there is a gap in the literature, pertaining to our understanding of the status of undergraduate and graduate student science process skills, which requires investigation by research.

The general research method and design developed for the study is explicated in chapter three. The nature of the study required that both quantitative and qualitative data be gleaned from a large number of students. The complexity of the study required many research processes to be carried out in a linear procedure, from interviewing experts, to designing and implementing a test instrument, to statistical and qualitative analysis of the student scores for the items in the instrument. All of these processes are explained in chapter 3 while the development of the instrument is specifically dealt with in chapter four.

Chapters five to seven report on the specific methods used to address each research question, the results obtained and the implications of the study. Quantitative analysis of the items in the instrument was executed in order to get a snapshot of the student capacities in the science process skills tested (Chapter five). The results achieved for each group from first year through to honours were compared to infer whether students increase their skill level as they progress through the years (Chapter six). Data from student records were used in addition to their test scores in an effort to find indicators of performance (Chapter seven). Chapter seven includes a model for predicting student performances in science process skills. This model could prove useful when selecting students for admission into science courses

The final chapter provides an overall synthesis of the study with reflective critique and suggestions for further research. An important inference of the study was that in spite of their overall successful completion of the instrument, many students have some specific problems with some science process skills. Furthermore, it appears that studentsí abilities with science process skills improve significantly from first year through to honours.

This study was conducted in one department at a single university and therefore the results cannot be taken as indicative of all science departments nationally or internationally.

However, the method designed and used for this work may be transferred in order to establish the status of studentsí similar skills at other department and institutions. It is also with this regard that the findings of this thesis may be useful in the future.

Copyright 2005, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Aldous, CM 2005, University level genetics studentsí competencies in selected science process skills, MSc dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-02092006-120752 / >

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