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Three forms of assessment of prior knowledge, and improved performance following an enrichment programme, of English second language biology students within the context of a marine theme
Feltham, N.F.; Downs, C.T. (2002). Three forms of assessment of prior knowledge, and improved performance following an enrichment programme, of English second language biology students within the context of a marine theme. Int. J. Sci. Educ. 24(2): 157-184. hdl.handle.net/10.1080/09500690110049141
In: International Journal of Science Education. Taylor and Francis: Abingdon. ISSN 0950-0693, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Feltham, N.F.
  • Downs, C.T.

Abstract
    The Science Foundation Programme (SFP) was launched in 1991 at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in an attempt to equip a selected number of matriculants from historically disadvantaged schools with the skills, resources and self-confidence needed to embark on their tertiary studies. Previous research within the SFP biology component suggests that a major contributor to poor achievement and low retention rates among English second language (ESL) students in the Life Sciences is the inadequate background knowledge in natural history. In this study, SFP student background knowledge was assessed along a continuum of language dependency using a set of three probes. Improved student performance in each of the respective assessments examined the extent to which a sound natural history background facilitated meaningful learning relative to ESL proficiency. Student profiles and attitudes to biology were also examined. Results indicated that students did not perceive language to be a problem in biology. However, analysis of the student performance in the assessment probes indicated that, although the marine course provided the students with the background knowledge that they were initially lacking, they continued to perform better in the drawing and MCQ tools in the post-tests, suggesting that it is their inability to express themselves in the written form that hampers their development. These results have implications for curriculum development within the constructivist framework of the SFP.

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