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Student conceptions of the nature of science

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ABSTRACT Research has shown that students from elementary school to college have major misconceptions about the nature of science. While an appropriate understanding of the nature of science has been an objective of science education for a century, researchers using

ABSTRACT Research has shown that students from elementary school to college have major misconceptions about the nature of science. While an appropriate understanding of the nature of science has been an objective of science education for a century, researchers using a variety of instruments, continue to document students' inadequate conceptions of what science is and how it operates as an enterprise. Current research involves methods to improve student understanding of the nature of science. Students often misunderstand the creative, subjective, empirical, and tentative nature of science. They do not realize the relationship between laws and theories, nor do they understand that science does not follow a prescribed method. Many do not appreciate the influence culture, society, and politics; nor do they have an accurate understanding of the types of questions addressed by science. This study looks at student understanding of key nature of science (NOS) concepts in order to examine the impact of implementing activities intended to help students better understand the process of science and to see if discussion of key NOS concepts following those activities will result in greater gains in NOS understanding. One class received an "activities only" treatment, while the other participated in the same activities followed by explicit discussion of key NOS themes relating to the activity. The interventions were implemented for one school year in two high school anatomy and physiology courses composed of juniors and seniors. Student views of the nature of science were measured using the Views of the Nature of Science - Form C (VNOS-C). Students in both classes demonstrated significant gains in NOS understanding. However, contrary to current research, the addition of explicit discussion did not result in significantly greater gains in NOS understanding. This suggests that perhaps students in higher-level science classes can draw the correlations between NOS related activities and important aspects of "real" science. Or perhaps that a curriculum with a varied approach my expose students to more aspects of science thus improving their NOS understanding.

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2010