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Grades 9-12 Photosynthesis and Respiration Standards- and Research-Based Study of a Curricular Topic

Section and Outcome


I. Identify Adult Content Knowledge

Selected Sources and Readings for Study and Reflection Current Research on Topic
The big ideas that make up this topic include: conservation and transformation of matter and energy, food webs, grand-scale chemical cycles and the recycling of resources within an ecosystem. My understanding of how plants fit into food webs because their ability to do photosynthesis and harness the suns energy to make sugar molecules was improved. New insights about the topic include the fact that the process of photosynthesis fits into a grander scale of chemical cycles and energy transformations within an ecosystem. All adults, including teachers, should be able to apply the conservation and transformation of matter and energy to living organisms. They should also know that all life is ultimately maintained by energy from the sun due to photosynthesis within plants. In addition, adults should understand why plants are the first stage of the food web and why organisms in higher stages of a food web capture only a small fraction of energy content of organisms in the stage below them. The reading reveals rich interconnections between abiotic and biotic factors with ecosystems as well as interconnections between producers and consumers, autotrophs and heterotrophs, and plants and animals. Based on the reading, K-12 education is aiming toward every student having a general overall knowledge base of how photosynthesis and cellular respiration are included in the much bigger concept of energy and matter transformations. No additional content knowledge was gained, but the reading did clarify energy loss within a food chain and the concept of nutrients being cycled back and forth between living and non-living parts of the ecosystem. Science Matters emphasizes the relationship between plants and animals. Plants use energy from the sun to build complex molecules and release oxygen. Both of which are used by animals, who release carbon dioxide for plants to utilize. This relationship contributes to the concept of food webs and nutrient cycles. Photosynthesis and respiration are complementary processes. The reading gave the following explanations and vivid examples, which can be used to supplement instruction. The concept that higher trophic levels support fewer individuals can be supported by the fact that beef is ten times more expensive than grain and the fact that there are no lion steaks. Science Matters also provided a vivid account of one carbon atoms movement through an ecosystem and gave the analogy of macromolecules being burned in the mitochondria to produce energy to run the cell. IA. Science for All Americans Chapter 5, Flow of Matter and Energy, pages 66-67 IB. Science Matters Chapter 15, The Power Plant, pages 263-266 Chapter 18, Energy and the Food Web, pages 329-332; Nutrients and the Carbon Cycle, pages 332-333 Benchmarks for Science Literacy suggests approaching the concept of cells

II. Consider

Instructional Implications

and the flow of energy with students by building upon prior knowledge with each grade level. K-2 starts simple by using magnifiers and learning that most things need water, food and air. As students progress through grade levels they learn more complex knowledge to add to the continually growing picture of cells. National Science Education Standards suggests the use of investigation, research, and inquiry when teaching life science and photosynthesis. The reading also suggests exploration activities and activities that emphasize general knowledge. Teachers should use the students understanding as basis to develop scientific understanding. Both readings mentioned several misconceptions and difficulties that can be experienced by students. Some of them include the fact that imagining a large number of cells is a problem for young students. In addition, energy transfer in biological systems is less obvious to students than energy transfer in physical systems. The common usage and technical definition of food can also cause persistent confusion among students. Strategies for effective learning of the ideas in the topic include letting students observe organisms within their own community. Magnifiers and films of living cells growing and dividing are also helpful. One from this sections reading was the use of the history of photosynthesis as a topic for a group research project to facilitate the concept that scientific understanding does not emerge all at once or fully formed. This idea can be used to fulfill nature of science benchmarks of state curriculum. Benchmarks for Science Literacy gives a big picture view of the topic by giving guidelines on when to introduce new material so as to continually build and work toward completing a full picture of cells and the flow of matter and energy. It suggests starting with simpler topics in earlier grades and gradually making them more complex once students have the proper foundational knowledge. The essays and vignettes in National Science Education Standards show that inquiry allows students to explore the concept of life and plants, and allows students to create and ask questions. The role of inquiry gives students a chance to develop and construct bigger pictures concerning classification, inheritance, etc. Inquiry also plays a role in expanding students knowledge of computers, conceptual and mathematical models, microscopes, and molecular biology as well as research and presentation techniques. IIA: Benchmarks for Science Literacy 5C, Cells general essay, page 110; grade span essays, pages 111-113 5E, Flow of Matter and Energy general essay, page 118; grade span essays, pages 119-121 IIIB: National Science Education Standards Grades K-4, Standard C essay, pages 127-129 Grades 5-8, Standard C essay, pages 155-156 Grades 9-12, Standard C essay, page 181; Vignette, Photosynthesis, pages 194-196 The following concepts make up the learning goals of this topic: Almost all kinds of animals food can be traced back to plants; Plants use the energy in light to make sugars out of carbon dioxide and water. Organisms that eat plants break down plant structures to produce materials and energy they need to survive. The major source of energy within ecosystems is sunlight. The

III. Identify Concepts and Specific Ideas

learning goals tell one exactly what students should know about a certain topic by being detailed and concise. One can determine what to eliminate from instruction by realizing what is not covered by the learning goals. The ideas in Benchmarks for Science Literacy and National Science Education Standards are very similar in that they both become more complex as the students age increases and they both focus on the big picture of the topic. There are many facts and concepts that are embedded within the standards. Here are a few: All animals depend on plants, the role of producers, consumers, and decomposers, the source of energy in an ecosystem, and the interdependence of organisms. Each standard with National Science Education Standards starts with fundamental knowledge that eventually contributes to a bigger picture. For example, for 9-12, the first topic covered is The Cell and the last topic covered is Behavior of Organisms. This suggests that the topic ideas should be organized by addressing small parts of a bigger picture first. Then, build upon each idea to reveal a bigger picture with a multitude of relationships between separate parts. IIIA: Benchmarks for Science Literacy 5C, Cells, pages 111-114 5E, Flow of Matter and Energy, pages 119-121 IIIB: National Science Education Standards Grades K-4, Standard C, The Characteristics of Organisms, page 129; Organisms and Their Environments, page 129 Grades 5-8, Standard C, Populations and Ecosystems, pages 157-158 Grades 9-12, Standard C, The Cell, page 184; The Interdependence of Organisms, page 186; Matter, Energy, Organization in Living Systems, pages 186-187 The following specific misconceptions are prevalent among students concerning this topic: Food is a requirement for growth rather than a source of matter for growth. Plants get food from the soil and roots are the organ of feeding. Photosynthesis is something plants do for the benefit of people and animals. Light is considered to be made of molecules. Oxygen is equated with air. Plants only respire in the dark. The many uses of the word food in every day and scientific language contribute to a great number of student misconceptions about photosynthesis. Students in higher grade levels are more likely to understand more complex material associated with the topic. The research shows that without the proper prerequisites, student misconceptions will persist even with instruction. For example, one study found that pupils saw no connection between oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle and other processes involving production, consumption and use of food. This did not change even after instruction on the concept. Only four percent more achieved the goal conception that matter is converted back and forth between organisms bodies and substances in the environment. Research from Benchmarks for Science Literacy demonstrates common misconceptions of and areas of difficulty for students within the topic. These can be used to tailor instruction and learning activities. For example, students consistently think plants get their food from the environment rather than manufacturing it internally. This misconception is particularly resistant to change. Knowing this, a teacher can plan activities that specifically address it.

IV. Examine Research on Student Learning

What does food mean to you? is an important question ask since students tend to have different meanings of the word food. This contributes to several misconceptions on how plants get their food. In addition, teachers should ask them about the relationship between photosynthesis and respiration and the importance of photosynthesis in the ecosystem in maintain oxygen levels. Free response writing about topics and concepts is a task that can be used to find out what students know about the topic. Emphasis on the origin of sugar, starch, and cellulose during instruction can combat the misconception that minerals and water contribute to plant growth rather than sunlight and carbon dioxide. With regards to cycling of matter through an ecosystem, students tended to think within the framework of sequences of cause and effect events, with matter being created or destroyed in these events, and then the sequence starting again. In addition, students have a difficult time distinguishing between food, matter, and energy since they are all thought to be absorbed by plants or animals. IVA: Benchmarks for Science Literacy 5E, Flow of Matter and Energy, pages 342-343 IVB: Making Sense of Secondary Science: Research into Childrens Ideas Chapter 2, Food: What is it? Pages 27-28; Human Digestion and Assimilation, pages 29-30; Plant Nutrition, pages 30-32; Photosynthesis, pages 32-33; Gas Exchange by Plants, pages 33-34 Chapter 7, Nutrition and Energy Flow, pages 59-60; Cycling of Matter Through the Ecosystem, page 65; Gas Exchange and Balance, page 66; Respiration, pages 66-68 Chapter 13, Gases Involved in Life Processes, pages 110-111 A map helps trace a concept or skill from its simple beginning to a more advanced, interconnected idea. Lines on the map show conceptual growth from Kindergarten to 9-12. A concept box in a lower grade (K-2) will have a line with an arrow pointing to a new box showing how the ideas are related and how the concept has evolved to a more complex one. The flow of energy and matter provide the basis of connection among concepts in the topic. Most living things need water, food and air, and living things are made of atoms, which are matter. This matter flows through ecosystems and originates in plants which receive energy from sunlight to make complex sugars from carbon dioxide and water. This energy also flows through ecosystems. Benchmarks within the topic are also connected to other content areas such as Cell Functions, Atoms and Molecules, Conservation of Matter, and Chemical Reactions. Because the grade level I am teaching is at the top of the concept map, all prerequisite ideas will be found in the rows for K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. Some examples are that almost all kinds of animals food can be traced back to plants and that plants use energy from light to make sugars from carbon dioxide and water. The organization of the map suggests that concepts within the topic be organized by complexity. Concepts of lower complexity are lower on the map than concepts of higher complexity, which are found higher on the map. It also emphasizes that certain concepts must be mastered before a students can properly understand that chemical elements make up molecules of living things and pass through food webs and are combined and recombined in different ways. The topic is much harder to understand without a firm foundation of prerequisite concepts. The map helps in improving the overall understanding of

V. Examine Coherency and Articulation

the topic by organizing crucial concepts by complexity and by giving a guideline of when certain topics should be learned. This way, students receive the proper foundation without being overloaded by too complex a topic. For this topic, it seems that there are not any skill benchmarks. Instead, the topic is rooted deeply in knowledge benchmarks about energy in living things, photosynthesis, food webs, and matter cycles. V: Atlas of Science Literacy Flow of Matter in Ecosystems, pages 76-77 Flow of Energy in Ecosystems, pages 78-79 Many of the suggestions from section II-V focus on the relationship between photosynthesis and cellular respiration as well as the misconceptions associated with the topic and the research behind them. The state and district standards align well with the content standards presented in II-V, but do not address student problem areas or potential misconceptions with the topic. The additions of cognitive performance verbs make the learning more measurable. The verbs are appropriate for the nature of the content within the topic. The research findings suggest that placement of the standards be based upon complexity. Those first taught should be simple and then progress to more advance concepts. In addition, the standards should become more interconnected. I think the standards are properly placed. The Curriculum Topic Study helped me better understand the order in which concepts are taught for the pacing guide. In addition, it helped me better understand how each benchmark of the standard, Matter and Energy Transformations, is related. Photosynthesis isnt a process to be studied by itself, but to be also connected to chemical cycles, food webs, and cellular respiration. Standard 18, Matter and Energy Transformation, encompasses 12 benchmarks that are integral to learning the ideas of the topic. The readings for Section I-V have helped me better understand the relationship between photosynthesis and cellular respiration as well as their roles in the flow of energy and matter within an ecosystem. Before doing the Curriculum Topic Study I had a narrow view of both topics and rarely thought of how they were connected to each other and to even bigger picture ideas. The results of the Curriculum Topic Study make a bridge between the broad content standard of Matter and Energy Transformation and specific benchmarks about Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration by shedding light on the connections between the two topics. The connections show that there are matter and energy transformation at the atomic and molecular level within plants and animals. And these translate to much bigger representations of matter and energy transformations such as food webs and chains with an ecosystem. The study can improve upon the K-12 articulation of the standards since it gives specific goals for different grade levels further demonstrating at what age it is appropriate to introduce certain concepts. In addition, the study reveals common misconceptions about the topic, which are based on research. Knowing the misconceptions can dictate instruction to address and avoid them. The standards and the adult literacy ideas of Section I are very similar. There are limits to each of the benchmarks. For instance, the test specifications for SC.912.L18.9 state that instruction should not include memorization of specific stages of each process, balancing of equations, or the study of plant structures. These limitations are also left out of the adult literacy ideas. Both

VI. Clarify State Standards, 21st Century Skills, and District Curriculum

want students and literate adults to have accurate, broad, and general knowledge base of the topic. Section I-V reveal that all students have the opportunity to learn and demonstrate the state standards and that these opportunities are improved by them having the proper foundational knowledge for the topic. The district curriculum guide is based upon the state standards. It gives the best order for the standards to be taught. Before students learn the processes of photosynthesis and respiration, they must first learn about the molecules necessary for life to exist, how enzymes affect biological systems, the chemicals necessary for life to exist, and organization and development of living organisms. It also has students learning how chemicals and energy move through the ecosystem and food webs after they learn about photosynthesis and respiration. The standards definitely introduce the material so that students can build upon the knowledge they already have. However, I would put more emphasis on the role photosynthesis and respiration play in chemical and energy cycles and the connections between the more detailed processes and the big picture ecosystem. The study emphasizes the importance of foundational knowledge. Lessons should not be skipped so that students receive the necessary prerequisite knowledge. This will ensure that the student will have the best opportunity to understand complex concepts. It will also avoid the creation and perpetuation of misconceptions. The study also reveals that concepts should be introduced with the lease complex first. This way, teachers can avoid introducing a complex concept too soon. In addition, students can build upon concepts and explore relationships between concepts with this organization. Knowing this from the study helped me in identifying the same pattern in the Alachua County Pacing Guide. For example, students learn the necessary molecules and chemicals for life before learning about the process of photosynthesis which uses and produces essential molecules and chemicals. The results of the study reveal that certain topics need to be revisited within or at different grade levels with new contexts and increasing sophistication of concepts. For example, the concept map in the Atlas of Science Literacy shows the concept, animals eat plants or other animals for food for K-2. This concept is revisited in 3-5, but elaborated with the fact that people obtain energy and materials for body repair and growth from food. This continues for 6-8 and 9-12. The same basic concept that animals eat plants and other animals is revisited; however the concept is further defined at each increasing grade level. VIA: State Standards: Biology End-Of-Course Exam Test-Item Specifications VIB: District Curriculum Guide or Instructional Materials: Biology Pacing Guide for Alachua County