Blood and bones: the influence of the mass media on Australian primary school children’s understandings of genes and DNA

Article


Donovan, Jennifer and Venville, Grady. 2014. "Blood and bones: the influence of the mass media on Australian primary school children’s understandings of genes and DNA." Science and Education. 23 (2), pp. 325-360. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-012-9491-3
Article Title

Blood and bones: the influence of the mass media on Australian primary school children’s understandings of genes and DNA

ERA Journal ID20624
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsDonovan, Jennifer (Author) and Venville, Grady (Author)
Journal TitleScience and Education
Journal Citation23 (2), pp. 325-360
Number of Pages36
Year2014
ISSN0926-7220
1573-1901
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-012-9491-3
Abstract

Previous research showed that primary school children held several misconceptions about genetics of concern for their future lives. Included were beliefs that genes and DNA are separate substances, with genes causing family resemblance and DNA identifying suspects at crime scenes. Responses to this work ‘blamed’ the mass media for these misunderstandings. This study aimed to determine whether that blame had any foundation by examining the media habits and conceptions about genes and DNA of Australian children. With little prior research considering the influence of entertainment mass media on children’s academically relevant knowledge, this was an exploratory study with a mixed modes design. Data were collected by detailed media questionnaires and face-to-face interviews with 62 children aged 10–12 years, and subjected to content and thematic analysis. Specific mass media examples children reported using were examined for genetics content. Results indicate 5 h/day of media use, mostly television including crime shows, and that children perceived television to be their main source of information about genetics. Most children (89 %) knew DNA, 60 % knew genes, and more was known about uses of DNA outside the body such as crime solving or resolving family relationships than about its biological nature and function. Half believed DNA is only in blood and body parts used for forensics. These concepts paralleled the themes emerging from the media examples. The results indicate that the mass media is a pervasive teacher of children, and that fundamental concepts could be introduced earlier in schools to establish scientific
concepts before misconceptions arise.

Keywordsprimary children, mass media, genetics, genes, DNA, television, crime show effect
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390113. Science, technology and engineering curriculum and pedagogy
390304. Primary education
500204. History and philosophy of science
Public Notes

The article was published online first on 21 June 2012, but a significant delay was experienced (due to problems with another paper in the volume) before the print version appeared in Feb 2014. Accepted Version deposited and made public in accordance with publisher copyright policy (Springer)

Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Western Australia
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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