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Wednesday, July 3 • 2:15pm - 2:55pm
Making semantic waves in biochemistry

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In this study, we aim to analyze the pedagogical discourse of Biochemistry’s teachers at the Federal University of Minas Gerais – Brazil (UFMG), using Legitimation Code Theory’s (LCT) Semantic dimension. This dimension allows researchers to understand the semantic structures of teacher discourses through two concepts: semantic density (SD), which analyzes the condensation of meanings, and semantic gravity (SG), which analyzes the extent to which meaning is dependent on its context (Maton 2014). By tracing the variations in semantic gravity and semantic density by mapping the semantic wave across teaching practice, it is possible to obtain the semantic profile of teachers’ practices, helping researchers to understand the basis for good teaching practices (Maton et al., 2016). Recent studies have shown that when teachers’ practices construct semantic waves they contribute to students’ learning (Macnaught et al., 2013, Maton, 2013 and 2014, Matruglio et al., 2013). In the present work, we filmed Biochemistry classes to enable students of Biological Sciences at UFMG to follow the construction of semantic waves in the discourses of professors considered by the students as good teachers. Although pertaining to the basic cycle of most undergraduate courses in the field of biomedical sciences, Biochemistry is a multifaceted discipline that includes the study of the molecular structure, composition, and chemical reactions of substances in living systems. These are complex issues to be addressed and teachers realize the great difficulty students have in learning them. Our hypotheses is that Biochemistry is hard to be learned due to its high degree of interdisciplinarity, involving concepts from Biology, Chemistry and Physics, which makes its content semantically very dense. So, to facilitate their learning, it would be necessary to construct semantic waves throughout Biochemistry classes, something not always easy to do. To achieve our goal, the recordings made during the 2018 first semester were scrutinized and specific sections were selected for transcription and analysis of their semantic waves formations. Taking previous work into account (Córdova Jiménez, et al, 2016, Santos & Mortimer, 2018), we have identified five levels of semantic density in the analyzed Biochemical classes. Level 1 corresponds to the lowest value for semantic density (SG-), and biological terms under this criterion are closer to everyday language so that most people can easily understand their meanings (e.g. food, digestion, sugar, water). Level 2, includes terms associated to macroscopic biological aspects, such as whole organisms (uni or pluricellular), organs, or tissues, that are present along the school life of the students and that are reasonably consolidated (e.g. virus, bacteria, fungi, lung, muscle, intestine) . At level 3, general concepts of biological macromolecules, cell structure and cell function (e.g. glycogen, fat acids, mitochondria, membrane, DNA replication) were included. Level 4 included more complex and molecular concepts that combined knowledge from a variety of fields (e.g. biosynthetic and energetic metabolism, enzyme kinetic, hormone regulation, nervous synapsis). Finally, at Level 5, we identified the densest concepts, predominantly symbolic language, molecular and atomic representations, reaction mechanisms or very dense terms (e.g.. Gibbs energy, nucleophilic attack, endosymbiosis, positron emission tomography, electron resonance). Our preliminary results showed that semantic waves involving all these five levels could be identified more than once in a single Biochemistry class, but levels 3 and 4 predominate. We observed also that student interventions during the class can force drastic variation in the semantic density, leading to punctual interruptions in the semantic waves.

Wednesday July 3, 2019 2:15pm - 2:55pm SAST
Room B47

Attendees (1)