Learner conceptual categorization of food within a developing context.
This study explored patterns of conceptual knowledge organization using a word association task among Grade 8 learners at an Ex-Model C school. The goal was to show links between conceptual knowledge development and the social and political context of learners, their individual characteristics and preferences, and the ways they individually went about their learning and thinking.This study was undertaken in the Pietermaritzburg area at a school that draws the majority of its student population from its immediate vicinity, the surrounding townships, the Eastern Cape and a small number from the surrounding communities. A quantitative and qualitative research methodology was employed in this study using an experimental research design. Three experimental tasks were replicated from Ross and Murphy (1999) with learners across Grade 8 in a developing context. This study explored how Grade 8 learners represented, accessed, and made inferences about a real world category; food, that is complex multi-dimentional and multi-hierarchical, and cross-classificatory. The learners were selected randomly and included a good representation of the schools demographics. Different sets of learners were used in each task. The learners’ groupings and rationales for the category generating, rating, and sorting experiments were recorded on data schedules. The researcher utilized an experiment used by Bernstein (1970), Holland (1981) and Hoadley (2005) in their studies to show how working class and middle class children differently organized knowledge at the conceptual level. Other than the above research there have also been further, perhaps even more sophisticated, food classification experiments that have been completed. I focus on these latter experiments to grapple with some of the main claims provided in gthe above works. Experimental research was used to gather data. The experimental research design included the following experimental tasks: category generating, category rating and category sorting. Interviews were carried out to obtain a deeper understanding of why the learners made certain choices and to clarify responses offered in the experiments. No strong conclusions were drawn from this limited sample. Nevertheless there was a notable insufficiency in the learner’s usage of taxonomic categories. A small proportion of the subjects were able to categorise and organise food items by their macronutrients, suggesting a taxonomic chain. The study also revealed that there were categories that did show groupings of foods of the same consecutive kinds. However, they pointed instead to the situation of the event, or healthiness of the food item. Food items were found to be typical members of both taxonomic and thematic categories. The default (non-directed) group results showed that its sortings were heavily influenced by script or thematic categories. Hence, the subjects in this sample displayed a weakness to organise knowledge taxonomically.