Date of Award

2000

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

James H. Wandersee

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative, multiple case study of 14 students in a metropolitan public school in the Deep South was to find out, during a period of three months, what these kindergarten-aged children knew about birds, whether this knowledge represented current scientific thought, if such science instruction meaningfully affected their prior knowledge, and if so, what the factors during instruction that seemed to influence their understanding of the concept of bird were. The research was conducted in three phases; preinstruction interviews, instruction, and postinstruction interviews. The theoretical framework for this research was based on the Human Constructivism theory of learning (Mintzes, Wandersee and Novak, 1997). Instructional materials consisted of carefully chosen books (both fiction and non-fiction), guest speakers, field trips, a live bird in the classroom, students' observation journals, teacher-made classification and sorting activities, and picture-based concept maps. The findings suggest that young children's knowledge of birds was limited chiefly to birds' anatomical and morphological characteristics, with repeated references being made by the children to human characteristics. There was a positive, significant difference in young children's pre- and postinstruction scientific knowledge of birds. Although performance varied from child to child after instruction, most children were able to identify some common birds by name. Just one child resisted conceptual change. Kindergarten children's basic knowledge of bird behavior was limited to flight and eating. Although the children had more conceptual knowledge at the end, understanding still appeared to be shallow. The children did develop their skill in observing markedly. It also became evident that these kindergarten children needed more (a) experience in asking questions, (b) practice in techniques of visual representation, and (c) language development in order to be able to explain what they observed. Scientific study of birds appeared to be an underutilized gateway to learning about living organisms in early childhood, especially in view of the fact that birds are the only large animals in nature that are easily seen by children during daytime hours. Such early childhood bird studies also correlate well with the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996).

ISBN

9780493069975

Pages

304

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