Nature of Science and Evs Curriculum

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              Journal of Elementary Science Education , Vol. 21, No. 2 (Spring 2009), pp. 1-14. ©2009 Document and Publication Services, Western Illinois University.                             Abstract This study examined the differences of the nature of science (NOS) conceptions  portrayed by preservice teachers in Korea ( N  = 42) and the United States ( N  = 50). We conducted a survey of preservice elementary science teachers’ NOS conceptions  followed by interviews in both countries to further investigate their viewpoints. The NOS domains of this investigation were Relativism versus Positivism, Inductivism versus Deductivism, Contextualism versus Decontextualism, Process versus Content, and Instrumentalism versus Realism. Findings indicated that preservice elementary science teachers’ images of science were dominated by Relativism and Process in both countries. The conceptions of preservice teachers were different, however, in Inductivism versus Deductivism, Contextualism versus Decontextualism, and Instrumentalism versus Realism. Implications of these findings are discussed at the end of this article.  For the last three decades, the science education community has viewed teaching the nature of science (NOS) as essential (Abd-El-Khalick & Lederman, 2000; American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1993; Lederman, 1992). The importance of student understanding of the NOS is currently reflected in the goals and recommendations of K-12 science education documents developed in the United States (AAAS, 1993; National Research Council [NRC], 1996) and The 7th National Science Education Curriculum  of Korea (Korea Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development, 2002). Teachers’ images of science  become important, especially when describing and presenting science in classes of Western and non-Western countries as it influences not only the way that teachers present science in the classroom but also the way that students view science. The topic of NOS has been heavily researched with the conclusion being that science teachers have inadequate understandings of the NOS in that they mostly believe that scientific knowledge is not tentative and that they possess a Positivist view of science (Abd-El-Khalick & BouJaoude, 1997; Abd-El-Khalick & Lederman, 2000; Lederman, 1992; Pomeroy, 1993). Lederman (1992) reviewed research of teachers’ conceptions of science published since the 1950s and noted that most of the primary and secondary teachers did not hold the desired understandings of the NOS. In fact, many studies characterized the majority of science teachers as functioning with a Positivist view (Duschl & Wright, 1989; King, 1991; Loving, 1991; Powell, 1994). The question that arises is, “Is there a difference in teachers’ conceptions of the NOS in different cultural contexts?” Liu and Lederman’s (2003) work demonstrated that             Taiwanese preservice teachers conceived science as close to technology and as a materialistic benefit that is more pragmatic than rational and theoretical. As noted in the works of Abd-El-Khalick and BouJaoude (2003) and Aikenhead and Otsuji (2000), this conception tends to appear in non-Western cultural contexts. Teachers’ position in regards to the NOS may be related to their conceptions of science teaching and learning. Literature shows that there were two positions regarding the relationship  between teachers’ conceptions of the NOS and their science teaching behavior in the classroom: (1) the studies that depended upon the relationship (Brickhouse, 1990; Gallagher, 1991; Lorsbach, Tobin, Briscoe, & Lamaster, 1992; Mitcherner & Anderson, 1989; Tobin & Espinet, 1989) and (2) the works that found no relationship (Duschl & Wright, 1989; Lederman & Zeidler, 1987). Although our study did not examine this relationship, we took the former position in our discussion—that is, that teachers’ teaching behaviors were influenced by their conceptions of the NOS. Would a view of the NOS be the same or different among the preservice teachers in different countries? If different, what does it imply for teacher preparation programs? The five dimensions of science images that are generally recognized when discussing the NOS viewpoints (Nott & Wellington, 1993) are (1) Relativism versus Positivism, (2) Inductivism versus Deductivism, (3) Contextualism versus Decontextualism, (4) Process versus Content, and (5) Instrumentalism versus Realism. Using this framework, the study explored preservice elementary teachers’ images of science between Korea and the United States, and it explained the differences in each domain of the NOS to gain a better understanding about how preservice teachers’ images are specifically different.     The methodology used for this study was twofold: (1) a questionnaire and (2) a semistructured follow-up interview. The questionnaire was mailed to three instructors in three universities, and they administered it in their classrooms during the middle of the fall semester. Out of 100 questionnaires, 92 responses were returned and analyzed for this study. After the questionnaire, three participants in each group were randomly chosen for a follow-up interview in which they responded to items in each dimension. Interview questions were semistructured in that new questions were brought up during the interview to clarify key words and to gain insights into the interviewees’ responses on issues brought up on the questionnaire. Two or three items representing each dimension were selected for the interview: Items 3, 14, and 16 for Relativism versus Positivism; Items 5 and 19 for Inductivism versus Deductivism; Items 6 and 22 for Contextualism versus Decontextualism; Items 7 and 17 for Process versus Content; and Items 10 and 21 for Instrumentalism versus Realism (see Appendix A). Therefore, the follow-up interviews were used to help verify the students’ responses in the event that the Likert scale questionnaire did not provide sufficient in-depth information. The U.S. sample was selected from the elementary science method courses at two universities—one in the East (US-A; N = 26) and one in the Midwest (US-B; N = 24). The Korean sample was taken from the elementary science method courses at a university located in the capital city of Seoul, the Republic of Korea (N = 42). Two universities of the U.S. were chosen to see if there was a variance in their teacher preparation programs regarding the students’ view of science. All of the participants in both countries in this study were never instructed explicitly on the NOS before nor during the course of this investigation. The participants from
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