An Investigation of Taiwanese Early Adolescents' Views about the Nature of Science

By Huang, Chao-Ming; Tsai, Chin-Chung et al. | Adolescence, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

An Investigation of Taiwanese Early Adolescents' Views about the Nature of Science


Huang, Chao-Ming, Tsai, Chin-Chung, Chang, Chun-Yen, Adolescence


INTRODUCTION

There is no doubt that science is one of the major school subjects for adolescent students. The goal of science education is not only to help students acquire scientific knowledge, but to understand its development. In other words, science education should not only teach what science is, but also how scientific knowledge is constructed through a series of complex interactions among different views, such as cultural and social. Traditional science education focuses mainly on the acquisition of scientific facts, but very little on the process as well as the nature of developing scientific knowledge (Duschl, 1990). That is, science curricula, teachers, and students may not have an appropriate understandings of the nature of science, and most of them express empiricist-aligned (in contrast to constructivist) views about the nature of science (Lederman, 1992).

During the past five decades, many studies have investigated teachers' and students' views about the nature of science and their potential impacts (Elby & Hammer, 2001; Pomeroy, 1993; Songer, & Linn, 1991; Tsai, 1998a,b, 2002). In these previous studies, a consensus had probably emerged that views about the nature of science would influence or relate to the learning process and the ways of constructing knowledge in science. For example, Tsai (1998b) indicated that students' views about the nature of science were significantly correlated with their cognitive structure outcomes. Moreoever, these views may guide their capacity for metacognition (Tsai, 2001). Consequently, an exploration of students' views about the nature of science is an important research issue for science educators. Some instruments have been developed to assess these views. For example, Pomeroy (1993) developed a questionnaire to investigate conceptions of the nature of science. This type of questionnaire often employed a one-dimensional assessment to represent the nature of science. The students' final scores on the nature of science questionnaire would be used to categorize them into two or three poles, such as constructivist versus non-constructivist (Tsai, 1998a), traditional views of science versus non-traditional (Pomeroy, 1993), or static, mixed, and dynamic (Songer & Linn, 1991).

Some researchers proposed the multiple-dimensional characteristics of the nature of science (e.g., Tsai, 2000a, 2002; McComas, 1996), in which the student's views regarding the nature of science would vary with different epistemological dimensions (Tsai, 2002). For example, a person may disagree with the constructivist-oriented assertion that "observations are theory-laden," but he or she may support the other constructivist-oriented perspective that "social negotiations play an important role for science." In other words, a student might be categorized as "constructivist" in one dimension, but as "non-constructivist" (or have an empiricist view) in other dimensions of the nature of science (Tsai, 2002). Since previous studies seemed not to carefully assess students' views about the nature of science in multiple dimensions, this study tried to develop such an instrument.

After reviewing related articles about the nature of science (e.g., Duschl, 1990; Lederman, 1992; Tsai, 1998c), three important dimensions were selected for investigation. The first dimension addresses the perspective that scientific knowledge is invented and changing; i.e., that scientific knowledge originates from scientists' invention and the state of scientific knowledge is tentative and dynamic. Therefore, the development of science is a process of conceptual evolution or sometimes revolution.

The second dimension of the nature of science is related to the role of social negotiation in the development of scientific knowledge. Not only is scientific knowledge invented by scientists, but it is also required that it be accepted by other contemporary scientists. All scientific knowledge must be carefully examined and confirmed by the scientific community. …

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