Academic journal article Science Educator

Explicitly Targeting Pre-Service Teacher Scientific Reasoning Abilities and Understanding of Nature of Science through an Introductory Science Course

Academic journal article Science Educator

Explicitly Targeting Pre-Service Teacher Scientific Reasoning Abilities and Understanding of Nature of Science through an Introductory Science Course

Article excerpt


Development of a scientifically literate citizenry has become a national focus and highlights the need for K-12 students to develop a solid foundation of scientific reasoning abilities and an understanding of nature of science, along with appropriate content knowledge. This implies that teachers must also be competent in these areas; but assessment of students in our teacher preparation program indicated they were not developing necessary scientific reasoning abilities or a sophisticated understanding of nature of science. As a result, explicit scientific reasoning-oriented training modules and reflective nature of science activities were integrated into the program's science foundations course. Significant gains were observed in each. These findings highlight the need and motivation for teacher preparation programs to incorporate coursework that promotes the development of scientific reasoning and a more contemporary view of the nature of science. In addition, this study provides a framework for the modification of existing teacher preparation courses to meet these needs.

Keywords: scientific reasoning, nature of science, teacher preparation, college


Reports from large-scale international studies of science and mathematics education, such as TIMSS and PISA, continually rank U.S. students behind many other nations. In response, the U.S. has increased its emphasis on the implementation of a more extensive curriculum in K-12 education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). For example, A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012), the basis for the first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), recently suggested reforms that view science education through three dimensions: scientific practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. The latter two compose the content of science, while the first dimension focuses on how scientists come to develop scientific knowledge. These practices include asking questions, developing and using models, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, constructing explanations, engaging in argument from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. One important component that runs through these practices is an understanding of nature of science, which refers to the values and beliefs inherent to scientific knowledge and its development (Lederman, 1992; 2007). In addition to the broader aspects of scientific knowledge development, individuals must also grasp finer scientific and mathematical reasoning abilities in order to enact these practices. When taken together, nature of science (NOS) understanding and scientific reasoning (SR) abilities include the thinking and reasoning involved in inquiry that supports the formation and modification of concepts and theories about the natural and social world (Zimmerman, 2005).

Understanding nature of science.

Although a single description for NOS does not exist in the research literature, McComas, Clough, and Almarzoa (1998) reported on commonalities between eight international science education standards documents. These include scientific knowledge as empirically-based, tentative, creative, theoryladen, and soci ally /culturally embedded. Abd-El-Khalick, Bell, and Lederman (1998) further suggest the inclusion of the distinctions between observation and inference as another important aspect of NOS. Tsai (1999) adds yet another dimension involving the role of social negotiation. These aspects of NOS provide guidance for the implementation and interpretation of scientific practices.

Research has shown that students do not typically acquire a sophisticated understanding of NOS and that this development can be difficult to achieve (Lederman, 1992; Lederman & O'Mally, 1990; Tamir & Zohar, 1991). Unfortunately, teacher candidates have been found to be severely lacking in these areas as well (Abd-El-Khalick et al. …

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