Academic journal article College Student Journal

Undergraduate Biology Students' Representations of Science and the Scientist

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Undergraduate Biology Students' Representations of Science and the Scientist

Article excerpt

Knowing the undergraduate biology students' representations of science and the scientist is one of the key factors of taking significant educational measures regarding the future. The purpose of this study is to investigate undergraduate biology students' representations of science and the scientist. Data are collected from 148 participants using a free word association test and analyzed using a criterion of semantic relationship. According to the results, the participants produce both positive and negative associations regarding science and the scientist. A part of these associations resemble the stereotypic images of scientists reported by previous research. Additionally, some of the participants consider science or scientific knowledge is absolute. Furthermore, participants focus on the science, technology, society and the personal character of the scientist rather than nature of the science and the methods used by the scientists. These results are compared with related literature and recommendations are provided.

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One of the essential purposes of biology education is to encourage students to understand the nature of the science. Thus, the teachers and students should develop their practices of creating scientific knowledge and should attain an aptitude of comprehension of the nature of the produced knowledge. Understanding the nature of science and the way in which scientists work will assist students in participating to future scientific developments and current scientific discussions, as well as make use of scientific and technologic products and appraisal in a critical way of scientific assertions (Jordan & Duncan, 2009; Lederman, 1998; McComas et al., 2002). Therefore, it is significant to study the ordinary representations of science and the scientist, and images of science as well as attitudes towards science and scientists. Studying this aspect of science and the scientists has been widely presented in many studies. Many of these studies have focused on analyzing the data obtained from projective tests, such as Draw a Scientist Test (Chambers, 1983; Finson, 2002; Rosenthal, 1993).

The results of previous research have determined students' image of a scientist. Students from diverse age group perceive scientists as generally men, wearing a white laboratory coat, bespectacled, handling dangerous experiments, and middle age or aged. This common view revealed students have, in general, stereotypical images about science and scientists, and these images affect their approaches towards science (Barman, 1999; Chambers, 1983; Finson, 2002; Fung, 2002; Palmer, 1997; Ryder et al., 1999; Song, & Kim, 1999). Furthermore, research determined that not only students, but some of the teachers also have these same stereotypical images about the scientists. Such types of stereotypical images by the teachers negatively affect their teaching. In a study by Rosenthal (1993), most college biology students described the scientist only as a person dealing with work of gathering data from the field. These students, regarding the activities of a scientist, have not perceived the more important scientific process skills, such interpreting and organizing data, and making generalizations and inferences. Murcia and Schibeci (1999) researched the notions of college students about the nature of science. Their results determined the notions related to the nature of science by students did not correspond with modern notions. In their study, Murcia and Schibeci showed students have a deficient and insufficient insight about the scientific method and works performed by scientists. Rubin et al. (2003) investigated the image of scientists held by Israeli pre-service teachers. In their study, they found the image of the scientist is perceived as predominantly male, a physicist or a chemist, working in a laboratory typical of the eighteenth, nineteenth, or early-twentieth century. Bora (2005) determined biology teachers have many misconceptions about the nature of science. …

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