Pre-Service Teachers' Views of the Nature of Science and Technology before and after a Science Teaching Methods Course

Article excerpt

It is widely believed that understanding of the nature of science is an important objective in most science education curricula that are intended to promote scientific literacy. Lederman (1992) observed that the development of an adequate understanding of the nature of science or an understanding of science as a way of knowing continues to be advocated widely as a desired outcome of science teaching.

It is also widely acknowledged that there is a need for critical understanding of the nature of technology and how it relates not only to science but also to society. According to Rubba and Harkness (1993) concern over issues attributed to technology such as acid rain and global warming have brought forward the necessity to integrate science-technology-society (STS) into the school curriculum. Others, such as Zoller et al. (1990), have argued that developing an adequate understanding of the nature of science and technology and their interaction in society is fundamentally important at all levels in science education.

In the context of Brunei Darussalam, the importance of science and technology is immensely emphasised. Curricular content at all levels indicates explicitly that scientific and technological literacy is a necessary prerequisite for a citizenry of individuals functioning within their society.

If we accept the importance of a sound understanding of the nature of science and technology, it becomes especially important to examine the conceptual position of science teachers with regard to how they view science and technology. Such teachers' conceptual positions often influence what transpires in the classroom more than what is planned in the curriculum (Tairab, 1999).

Purpose of the study

This study is part of a large-scale project which is exploring various avenues that may affect student understanding of the nature of science and technology in secondary schools in Brunei (Tairab, 1999; Tairab et al., 1999). One of these avenues is how science teachers themselves view the nature of science and technology. The theoretical position taken here was that teachers' views and understanding of the nature of science would influence the way they portray science in their classrooms.

The purpose of the study was therefore to examine the impact of a science teaching methods course on pre-service science teachers' views of the nature of science and technology. The nature of science and technology is viewed in this study from a definitional perspective such as characteristics of science and technology and the relationship between science and technology.

Method

The data for the present study were collected using a newly developed instrument entitled the Nature of Science and Technology Questionnaire (NSTQ). The questionnaire measures various aspects of the nature of science and technology. The questionnaire was modified from the Views on Science-- Technology-Society (VOSTS) instrument (Aikenhead and Ryan, 1992). VOSTS is 114 empirically developed items covering various aspects of the nature of science and technology. VOSTS has been shown to be a reliable and valid instrument when used with secondary school students (Aikenhead and Ryan, 1992) and pre-service science teachers (Botton and Brown, 1998; Rubba et al., 1996).

The validity and reliability of NSTQ can be inferred, therefore, from the validity and reliability of VOSTS. According to Aikenhead and Ryan (1992) and Rubba et al. (1996) the validity and reliability of empirically developed instruments arises from the research paradigm and it therefore may not be appropriate to speak about it in the traditional sense of content and construct. Nevertheless, NSTQ was first content-validated by two science educators who were familiar with VOSTS, and secondly procedures developed by Rubba et al. (1996) were used to generate data that can be tested through inferential statistics. Options for items pertaining to the nature of science and technology were classified as R, 'Realistic', HM, `Has merit' and N, 'Naive'. …