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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Ros Roberts

Roberts, R. (2018), Biology: the ultimate science for teaching an understanding of scientific evidence, in Gericke, N. & Grace, M. eds, European Researchers in the Didactics of Biology Conference (ERIDOB). Karlstad, University Printing Office, Karlstad, 225-241.

Author(s) from Durham


Recent school science curriculum developments in many countries emphasise
that scientists derive evidence for their claims through different approaches;
that such practices are intimately bound up with disciplinary knowledge; and
that the quality of data should be appreciated. This position paper focuses
on the role of Biology to understand evidence, an essential component of
‘scientific practice’. Biology is an empirical science, using evidence to support
claims. Yet biological practice is diverse – including, inter alia, observations,
lab-based experimentation, field trials, ecological surveys, randomised controlled
trials – so how can we teach, within the time-constraints of the curriculum,
to help pupils really understand about evidence in biology? In this
paper biology is shown to be the ultimate context for teaching about evidence
and ‘scientific practice’. The paper draws on a body of research that presents
an understanding of the validity of data as a set of conceptual relationships,
shown on a concept map. Using examples from biological practice, the paper
shows how teachers can illustrate the application of the network of all these
ideas and their inter-relationships within the biology curriculum, to help
pupils develop the necessary ‘thinking behind the doing’. The paper explores
ways in which this understanding is inherently related to underpinning disciplinary
ideas of biology.