Scientific Conceptions of Photosynthesis among Primary School Pupils and Student Teachers of Biology

  • Darja Skribe Dimec
  • Jelka Strgar


Photosynthesis is the most important biochemical process on Earth. Most living beings depend on it directly or indirectly. Knowledge about photosynthesis enables us to understand how the world functions as an ecosystem and how photosynthesis acts as a bridge between the non-living and living worlds. It is, therefore, understandable that photosynthesis is included in national curricula around the world. The practice unfortunately shows that students at all school levels mostly learn about photosynthesis by rote. Consequently, they have difficulties understanding this vital process. Research also shows many misconceptions in relation to photosynthesis among students of different ages. Based on these, the main aim of our study was to explore the scientific conceptions about photosynthesis held by primary school pupils and student teachers of biology. Data were collected using a questionnaire containing seven biology content questions.
The sample consisted of 634 participants, 427 primary school pupils (aged 11–14), and 207 student teachers of biology (aged 20–23). We found that the populations of primary school pupils and student teachers of biology differ greatly concerning scientific conceptions of photosynthesis. The student teachers showed good and complex understanding of photosynthesis, while pupils showed some misconceptions (location of chlorophyll and photosynthesis in a plant, transformation of energy in photosynthesis). Analysis of the development of scientific conceptions about photosynthesis with age showed that there is very little progress among primary school pupils and none among biology student teachers. More involvement of student teachers of biology in practical work at primary schools during their study was suggested to make student teachers aware of, and better understand pupils’ misconceptions.


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