Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 7, Issue 2, Article 10 (Dec., 2006)
Behiye AKCAY
The analysis of how to improve student understanding of the nature of science: A role of teacher

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The analysis of how to improve student understanding of the nature of science: A role of teacher

Behiye AKCAY

Department of Science Education, University of Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa, USA


Received 17 Aug., 2006
Revised 20 Dec., 2006



The overall purpose of this analysis is to clarify whether or not teachers’ conceptions of the nature of science influence their instructional planning and classroom practices based on several significant research studies which have recently been published. Science process skills provide a basis in the major science disciplines for children to understand their world and the natural phenomena in it (National Research Council, 1996). Understanding the nature of science (NOS) is a central component of scientific literacy (NSTA, 1982). Many argue that the scientifically literate individual is one who holds an in-depth understanding of scientific facts, concepts, and theories in addition to a clear understanding of the nature of science (Lederman, 1986). Improving the scientific literacy of the public is one of the most important challenges facing science educators today. This means assisting all to have a sufficient conception of the NOS. Some argue that it is the distinguishing quality of a scientifically literate individual (Klopfer, 1969; Larson, 2000; Lederman & Zeidler, 1987; Meichtry, 1999).  Despite this goal and efforts to achieve it, research has shown that both students and teachers are generally unable to articulate an adequate understanding of the NOS (Bell et al., 2000). 

The NOS typically has been used to refer to the epistemology of science, i.e., science as a way of knowing and the values inherent in the development of scientific knowledge (Lederman, 1992). In his paper, an adequate understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge is defined with the following features: (1) tentative (subject to change), (2) empirical (based on/derived from observations of the natural world), (3) theory laden (subjectivity of knowledge), (4) partly the product of human inference, imagination, and creativity, (5) and socially and culturally embedded. Additionally, researchers argue the importance for (6) the functions and relationships between observations and inferences, and (7) the differences between scientific theories and laws (Abd-El-Khalick et al., 1998; Akerson et al., 2000; Bell et al., 2000; Buss, et al., 2002; Dickinson et al., 2000; Lederman & Zeidler, 1987; Lederman & O’Malley, 1990; Lederman, 1999; Meichtry, 1999).


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