Explicit teaching of the nature of science: a study of the impact of two variations of explicit instruction on student learning
The nature of science (NOS) is included in the National Science Education Standards and is described as a critical component in the development of scientifically literate students. Despite the significance of NOS in science education reform, research shows that many students continue to possess naïve views of NOS. Explicit and reflective discussion as an instructional approach is relatively new in the field of research in NOS. When compared to other approaches, explicit instruction has been identified as more effective in promoting informed views of NOS, but gaps in student understanding still exist. The purpose of this study was to deepen the understanding of student learning of NOS through the investigation of two variations of explicit instruction. The subjects of the study were two seventh grade classes taught by the same classroom teacher. One class received explicit instruction of NOS within a plate tectonics unit and the second class received explicit instruction of NOS within a plate tectonics unit plus supporting activities focused on specific aspects of NOS. The instruction time for both classes was equalized and took place over a three week time period. The intention of this study was to see if the additional NOS activities helped students build a deeper understanding of NOS, or if a deep understanding could be formed solely through explicit and reflective discussion within content instruction. The results of the study showed that both classes progressed in their understanding of NOS. When the results of the two groups were compared, the group with the additional activities showed statistically significant gains on two of the four aspects of NOS assessed. These results suggest that the activities may have been valuable in promoting informed views, but more research is needed in this area.