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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Children’s beliefs about inherited characteristics Kargbo, Dennis Borboh


Thirty two children (6 to 13 years) of average ability from three schools in Vancouver were interviewed about their beliefs regarding the phenomenon of inheritance. The study was purely exploratory. No hypothesis was tested. The subjects were exposed to five tasks, comprising twelve pictures, one live plant specimen and twenty questions. The first three tasks were designed to find out whether the subjects could differentiate between environmentally induced deformities and inherited traits in living organisms. The last two tasks were designed to find out whether the subjects invoke probability thinking in predicting the outcome of an offspring's inherited traits or not. The data collected was analyzed using tabular techniques: (a) Frequency distribution table. (b) Question-Response table. The results indicate that a large proportion of the subjects from the various age groups had difficulties differentiating between environmental deformities and inherited traits. Since the difficulties and the successes with the three tasks investigating the problem were found in all the age groups, it was suggested that possibly the acquisition of this concept is not dependent on age but is rather a function of the subject's experiences. On the other hand, the development of the thinking related to the making of probabilistic predictions was believed to be developmental. Younger subjects (6 to 9 years) were rigid and predicted with certainty; whereas the older subjects (10 to 13 years) made very imprecise and tentative predictions about the outcome of the offspring. This finding and others which are reported in this study about children's thinking regarding the phenomenon of inheritance, should help the curriculum developer and the classroom teacher in deciding how best appropriate learning opportunities could be provided for children (average ability) of the age groups that were studied.

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