Undergraduate Students’ Mental Model of Cell Biology

S. Saptono, W. Isnaeni, S. Sukaesih


A descriptive study of future teacher students’ mental models of essential concepts in Cell Biology was carried out through explanatory mixed-methods. Some students (n=40) of Biology Education Universitas Negeri Semarang were involved as the research subject. We used a diagnostic test, structured interview guides, and field notes to describe students’ mental model. In the early stage, we prepare a diagnostic test performed essential concepts of Cell Biology. Secondly, we define students’ mental models map based on their answers. Thirdly, we identify factors which affect students’ mental models. Exploration of mental models was conducted through structured interviews with students representing each category. The interview focused on reasoning and argumentation students’ abilities in answering the question on the test item. The research finding describes that students’ mental model in Cell Biology is grouped into three categories, macro-mental to think based of basic content, micro-mental in correlation of content, and intuitive-mental or misconception. This finding can be used in improving research-based learning in Cell Biology.


cell biology; mental model; undergraduate students

Full Text:



Albaiti, A., Liliasari, L., & Sumarna, O. (2016). The study of mental model on n-hexane-methanol binary system (the validation of physical chemistry practicum procedure). Jurnal Pendidikan IPA Indonesia, 5(1), 6-13.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).(2009). Benchmarks for Science Literacy:Blueprint. (Available http://www.project2061.org/publications/bsl/online; accessed on July 2nd,2016).

Bao, L., Cai, T., Koenig, K., Fang, K., Han, J., Wang, J., ... & Wang, Y. (2009). Learning and scientific reasoning. Science, 323(5914), 586-587.

Assaraf, O. B. Z., & Orion, N. (2005). Development of system thinking skills in the context of earth system education. Journal of research in science teaching, 42(5), 518-560.

Besnard, D., Greathead, D., & Baxter, G. (2004). When mental models go wrong: co-occurrences in dynamic, critical systems. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 60(1), 117-128.

Duit, R., & Treagust, D. F. (2003). Conceptual change: A powerful framework for improving science teaching and learning. International journal of science education, 25(6), 671-688.

Fencl, H. S. (2010). Development of students’ critical-reasoning skills through content-focused activities in a general education course. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(5), 56.

Fisher, K. M., Williams, K. S., & Lineback, J. E. (2011). Osmosis and diffusion conceptual assessment. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 10(4), 418-429.

Fry, H., Ketteridge, S., & Marshall, S. (2008). A handbook for teaching and learning in higher education: Enhancing academic practice. Routledge.

García-Madruga, J. A., Gutiérrez, F., Carriedo, N., Moreno, S., & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2002). Mental models in deductive reasoning. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 5(02), 125-140.

Greca, I. M., & Moreira, M. A. (2000). Mental models, conceptual models, and modelling. International Journal of Science Education, 22(1), 1-11.

Hegarty, M., Stieff, M., & Dixon, B. L. (2013). Cognitive change in mental models with experience in the domain of organic chemistry. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25(2), 220-228.

Jansoon, N., Coll, R. K., & Somsook, E. (2009). Understanding Mental Models of Dilution in Thai Students. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 4(2), 147-168.

Janssen, F. J., Tigelaar, D. E., & Verloop, N. (2009). Developing biology lessons aimed at teaching for understanding: a domain-specific heuristic for student teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20(1), 1-20.

Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2010). Mental models and human reasoning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(43), 18243-18250.

Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2013). Mental models and cognitive change. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25(2), 131-138.

Khasanah, N., Wartono, W., & Yuliati, L. (2016). Analysis of mental model of students using isomorphic problems in dynamics of rotational motion topic. Jurnal Pendidikan IPA Indonesia, 5(2), 186-191

Lynd-Balta, E. (2006). Using literature and innovative assessments to ignite interest and cultivate critical thinking skills in an undergraduate neuroscience course. CBE-life sciences education, 5(2), 167-174.

Macbeth, G., Razumiejczyk, E., del Carmen Crivello, M., Bolzán, C., Girardi, C. I. P., & Campitelli, G. (2014). Mental models for the negation of conjunctions and disjunctions. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 10(1), 135-149.

Markovits, H., & Barrouillet, P. (2002). The development of conditional reasoning: A mental model account. Developmental Review, 22(1), 5-36.

Michael, J. A. (2004). Mental models and meaningful learning. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 31(1), 1-5.

Mohammed, S., Ferzandi, L., & Hamilton, K. (2010). Metaphor no more: A 15-year review of the team mental model construct. Journal of Management, 36(4), 876-910.

Santamaría, C., Tse, P. P., Moreno-Ríos, S., & García-Madruga, J. A. (2013). Deductive reasoning and metalogical knowledge in preadolescence: a mental model appraisal. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25(2), 192-200.

Strickland, A. M., Kraft, A., & Bhattacharyya, G. (2010). What happens when representations fail to represent? Graduate students’ mental models of organic chemistry diagrams. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 11(4), 293-301.

Wang, C. Y., & Barrow, L. H. (2011). Characteristics and levels of sophistication: An analysis of chemistry students’ ability to think with mental models. Research in Science Education, 41(4), 561-586.

Wilson, C. D., Anderson, C. W., Heidemann, M., Merrill, J. E., Merritt, B. W., Richmond, G., ... & Parker, J. M. (2006). Assessing students’ ability to trace matter in dynamic systems in cell biology. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 5(4), 323-331.

Wijaya, C. P., & Muhardjito, M. (2016). The diagnosis of senior high school class x mia b students misconceptions about hydrostatic pressure concept using three-tier. Jurnal Pendidikan IPA Indonesia, 5(1), 13-21.


  • There are currently no refbacks.