What is inside of the head? Conceptions of Finnish 4-11 year old children on the content of the head and the brain
Keywords:thinking of child, henomenography, science-based knowledge, everyday conception
Teachers have a special role when supporting students´ understanding of health and wellbeing and function of the human body. However, studies made abroad show that the majority of 15 years old children do not understand the human body as a whole. In Finland, we have only a couple of studies concerning childrens’ conceptions on the structure and function of the body. This phenomenographic survey study is based on the development theory of children’s thinking and on the theory of biological thinking. The task is to clarify what kind of conceptions children (aged 4–11) have on the content of the human head and how the conceptions relate with scientific knowledge. It will be discussed how a teacher can support learning of biological knowledge, too. 138 children participated voluntarily in the study. Material consists of drawings and interviews of the children. It was analysed using phenomenographic methods. According to the results, the conceptions varied much even in the same age group. Some of the children had primitive scientific conceptions, but especially young children’s conceptions were based on imagination. Most of the children knew that the brain is located in the head. Some of them were able to name parts of the brain and knew something about its function, e.g. that it thinks and directs movements. The conceptions were based on the experiences of the children, were very tenuous and included many mistakes. No one of the children had totally correct knowledge of the structure and function of the brain. When starting a new biological theme it is very important to take into account experiences and everyday conceptions of children. In addition, it should be clarified what the children mean by the biological concepts they use.