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Title: Knowledge gaps in first year life sciences laboratories: “scaffolding” under prepared students through peer interaction
Authors: Booi, Kwanele 
Van Staden, Vanessa 
Keywords: Life Sciences;Peer learning;Community of practice;Practical work;Knowledge gaps
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: UNISA Press
Conference: ISTE International Conference on Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. 23-28 October 2016. Mopani Camp in Kruger National Park, Limpopo, South Africa 
Abstract: Globally, knowledge gaps in Life Sciences have been identified as causing low throughput - and high attrition rates in tertiary institutions. The purpose of this case study was to investigate how Life Sciences lecturers intervened by means of scaffolding to ameliorate knowledge gaps in the practical skills of first year Life Sciences pre-service teachers. Community of Practice theory was used as a lens to view how the scaffolding processes as well as group dynamics contributed to the dissemination of information among peers. All the first year pre-service teachers who enrolled for Natural Sciences were selected as subjects for this study. Three tasks were given to them - two tasks involved microscopy and one was a practical investigation on the rates of chemical reactions. The first task on how microscopes are operated was not assessed but was designed to allow students to practice and teach one another on how the apparatus is adequately used, in order to orientated those who never had an opportunity to physically touch and manipulate microscope for viewing purposes to have a firsthand information and to be upskilled by those who were competent in using them. The researchers used a strategy based on community of practice by grouping students with capable practical skills with those who came from disadvantaged schooling backgrounds. Based on the assumption that students enrolling for first year Natural Sciences at the university have all passed matric Life Sciences with 50% or more, it has been evident that different students within the same cohort have different experiences due to their different schooling backgrounds. This study confirmed that there are indeed gaps in appropriate skills to perform practical tasks. It was concluded that using peer learning activities in a scaffolding manner is a possible strategy to assist in erasing such gaps.
ISBN: 978-1-86888-907-5
Appears in Collections:Edu - Conference Proceedings

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