Science education today has become increasingly focused on research into complex natural, social and technological systems. In this study, we examined the development of high-school biology students’ systems understanding of the human body, in a threeyear longitudinal study. The development of the students’ system understanding was evaluated using the Components Mechanisms Phenomena (CMP) framework for conceptual representation. We coded and analysed the repertory grid personal constructs of 67 high-school biology students at 4 points throughout the study. Our data analysis builds on the assumption that systems understanding entails a perception of all the system categories, including structures within the system (its Components), specific processes and interactions at the macro and micro levels (Mechanisms), and the Phenomena that present the macro scale of processes and patterns within a system. Our findings suggest that as the learning process progressed, the systems understanding of our students became more advanced, moving forward within each of the major CMP categories. Moreover, there was an increase in the mechanism complexity presented by the students, manifested by more students describing mechanisms at the molecular level. Thus, the ‘mechanism’ category and the micro level are critical components that enable students to understand system-level phenomena such as homeostasis.
- Biology education
- Qualitative research