Children's anthropomorphic and anthropocentric ideas about micro-organisms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Publication details

JournalJournal of Biological Education
DatePublished - 2009
Issue number1
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)37-43
Original languageEnglish


Different views exist about whether anthropomorphic ideas assist or hinder learning in biology. This paper discusses the anthropomorphic and anthropocentric ideas children have about micro-organisms, and whether they affect their understanding. The research was carried out in primary and secondary schools in the South of England and involved 414 children aged 7, 11 and 14 years. Three different research techniques were used to elicit their ideas. Anthropomorphic and anthropocentric ideas about micro-organisms are apparent in responses from all age groups. Anthropomorphic ideas seem to help children to explain their understanding of some aspects of micro-organisms but the imbalance in children's anthropocentric views of micro-organisms appears to prohibit them considering other aspects of micro-organisms; for example, the importance of their role in decomposition and cycling of matter, or their beneficial technological applications. The focus on the danger micro-organisms are thought to pose to human health creates a hostile view of micro-organisms and this may inhibit future learning.

    Research areas

  • Micro-organisms, anthropomorphism, anthropocentricism, constructivism, learning

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