ERG SES H 04, Science Education
The reform documents and current science education literature emphasize that in addition to developing disciplinary knowledge of science, students of science need to develop an understanding of the disciplinary norms of science: and understanding of how scientific knowledge is constructed, evaluated, validated and communicated (Abd-ElKhalik, & Akerson, 2004; Gilbert, Boulter, & Elmer, 2000; Halloun, 2004). These ideals have been communicated in major science education reform documents and science education literature through the language of the nature of science (NOS).Although there has not been a consensus among science education community about what NOS is, NOS has been frequently used to refer to “the epistemology of science, science as a way of knowing, or the values and beliefs inherent to the development of scientific knowledge” (Abd-El-Khalik et al. 1998, p.418).
Science educators have conducted numerous studies to explore or to improve students and teachers’ understandings of NOS (Abd-El-Khalick & Akerson 2004; Abd-El-Khalick & Lederman 2000; Akersonu,Buzelli, &and Donnelly 2008). However, there are only few studies that explore scientists’ understanding of the nature of science and their teaching practice. Exploring graduate research assistants’ understanding of NOS is important for several reasons. First, research studies show that undergraduate students hold inadequate NOS understanding (Schussler & Bautista, 2012). One of the reasons why undergraduate students do not demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of NOS may be that their teaching assistants’ have limited understanding of the NOS as graduate research assistants teach most introductory courses. For instance, results of few studies on graduate teaching assistants in the U.S. show that the laboratory courses are primarily taught through “cookbook” activities, where students work through a set of procedures to reinforce course content for passing the exam or acquiring the knowledge needed for an upper level course (Addy & Blanchard, 2012; Bretz, Fay, Bruck, &Towns, 2012). This narrow focus on the scientific method may be a direct result of how graduate research assistants view science as some studies highlight the link between teachers’ beliefs and practices (Aguirre & Speer, 2000; Standen, 2002; Yero, 2002).
This is alarming in that students’ learning experiences at research universities are not aligned with the practices of science and should encourage science educators to invest more effort into studying teaching and learning practices in higher education. That means that we as science educators need to look into scientists and graduate teachers’ beliefs about science teaching and learning, as there is a positive link between beliefs and practice. If this area can be fully researched, strengths and weaknesses can be identified, and support can be provided as appropriate, undergraduate students are likely to develop a better understanding of authentic scientific practices. The research questions driving this inquiry are:
1) What is science graduate research assistant’s understandings of nature of science (NOS)?
2) How do graduate research assistant reflect nature of science (NOS) in a laboratory course?
Aguirre, J., & Speer, N. M. (2000). Examining the relationship between beliefs and goals in teacher practice. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 18 (3), 327-356 Akerson, V. L., Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Lederman, N. G. (2000). Influence of a reflective explicit activity-based approach on elementary teachers’ conceptions of nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 295–317. Akerson, V. L., Buzzelli, C. A. and Donnelly, L. A. (2008), Early childhood teachers' views of nature of science: The influence of intellectual levels, cultural values, and explicit reflective teaching. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(6), 748–770. Abd-El-Khalick, F., Bell, R. L., & Lederman, N.G. (1998). The nature of science and instructional practice: Making the unnatural natural. Science Education, 82(4), 417-436. Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Lederman, N. G. (2000). Improving science teachers’ conceptions of the nature of science: A critical review of the literature. International Journal of Science Education, 22, 665–701. Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Akerson, V. L. (2004). Learning about nature of science as conceptual change: Factors that mediate the development of pre-service elementary teachers’ views of nature of science. Science Education, 88, 785–810.
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