Developing the ability to recontextualise cellular respiration: an explorative study in recontextualising biological concepts

Menno Wierdsma*, Kerst Th Boersma, Marie Christine Knippels, Bert van Oers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In many science education practices, students are expected to develop an understanding of scientific knowledge without being allowed a view of the practices and cultures that have developed and use this knowledge. Therefore, students should be allowed to develop scientific concepts in relation to the contexts in which those concepts are used. Since many concepts are used in a variety of contexts, students need to be able to recontextualise and transfer their understanding of a concept from one context to another. This study aims to develop a learning and teaching strategy for recontextualising cellular respiration. This article focuses on students’ ability to recontextualise cellular respiration. The strategy allowed students to develop their understanding of cellular respiration by exploring its use and meaning in different contexts. A pre- and post-test design was used to test students’ understanding of cellular respiration. The results indicate that while students did develop an acceptable understanding of cellular respiration, they still had difficulty with recontextualising the concept to other contexts. Possible explanations for this ack of understanding are students’ familiarity with the biological object of focus in a context, the manner in which this object is used in a context and students’ understanding of specific elements of cellular respiration during the lessons. Although students did develop an adequate understanding of the concept, they do need more opportunities to practice recontextualising the concept in different contexts. Further research should focus on improving the strategy presented here and developing strategies for other core concepts in science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2388-2413
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2016


  • Biology education
  • conceptual development
  • context-based learning
  • recontextualising


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