Byrne, Jenny, Grace, Marcus and Hanley, Pam
Children’s anthropomorphic and anthropocentric ideas about micro-organisms
Journal of Biological Education, 44, (1), . (doi:10.1080/00219266.2009.9656190).
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Different views exist about whether anthropomorphic ideas assist or hinder learning in biology. This paper discusses
the anthropomorphic and anthropocentric ideas children have about micro-organisms, and whether they affect
their understanding. The research was carried out in primary and secondary schools in the South of England and
involved 414 children aged 7, 11 and 14 years. Three different research techniques were used to elicit their ideas.
Anthropomorphic and anthropocentric ideas about micro-organisms are apparent in responses from all age groups.
Anthropomorphic ideas seem to help children to explain their understanding of some aspects of micro-organisms
but the imbalance in children’s anthropocentric views of micro-organisms appears to prohibit them considering
other aspects of micro-organisms; for example, the importance of their role in decomposition and cycling of matter,
or their beneficial technological applications. The focus on the danger micro-organisms are thought to pose to
human health creates a hostile view of micro-organisms and this may inhibit future learning.
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