Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 7, Issue 2, Article 11 (Dec., 2006)
Views on science and education (VOSE) questionnaire
I addressed a hesitancy in distinguishing between informed and naïve views of NOS in the original article. On the one hand, as a methodology article, I intended to avoid the fallacy that tenets of postpositivism are superior to those of positivism, or that anti-realism overcomes realism. On the other hand, science educators should provide students with opportunities for discussing NOS topics and for justifying beliefs, rather than indoctrinate certain concepts, because all concepts of NOS are tentative. Matthews (1997) noted two mistakes made by James Robinson in his 1968 work “The nature of science and science teaching.” First, Robinson considered logical positivism as the only view of NOS. Second, Robinson advocated that one of the educational objectives was to teach students to believe in that one view. Likewise, contemporary science educators may make the same mistakes by equating NOS with a set of beliefs, and expecting students to be transformed to these beliefs. Scientists’ and philosophers’ views should be made known to students, but not taught in such a way as to stamp “a message from ink-pad on to paper” (Solomon, 1995, p.16). Students should learn to justify their beliefs, not to believe in a certain philosophical position.
Nevertheless, many researchers have requested a detailed guideline for coding the data. I shall clarify my position regarding each test item for researchers’ reference. In this text, the item is symbolized by a numerical number, indicating the question, and a letter, indicating the response for the question. For example, items 9A and 9B are the first and second responses for question 9. For data coding, first of all, I would consider the following 16 items as naïve conceptions and reverse their scores:
(1) Items 9A, 9B, and 9F, concerning the universal scientific method.
(2) Items 7A and 7B, which state that laws are more certain than theories.
(3) Items 3C, 3D, and 3E, regarding using no imagination in scientific investigation.
(4) Items 2C, 2D, and 15F, which stress no influence of socio-culture on scientific investigation.
(5) Items 8C, 15E, and 15I, which highlight no influence of personal beliefs on scientific investigation.
(6) Items 8C and 8D, in which observations are considered to be independent from theories.
Secondly, concerning the epistemological status of theories and laws, my viewpoint is that participants should recognize that scientists create theories and laws to interpret and describe empirical evidence. However, it should be noticed that, while some scientists and philosophers argue that theories and laws are invented, others believe that there is an objective World and scientists try to discover theories and laws. Which view is more desirable for the subjects to possess? This will be the individual researcher’s judgment. When I interpret the results of these items, instead of saying that the participants’ knowledge is adequate or not, I compare their views about the epistemological statuses of theories and laws. Those who believe that laws are more reliable than theories tend to put laws at the discovery end and theories at the invention end.
For the rest of the NOS items in VOSE, I think they are all acceptable. Participants, whether they are teachers or students, should have a comprehensive view. For example, scientific knowledge is accumulated and evolved, and may have revolutionary change. Theory choice is based on empirical evidence and also influenced by many factors that have nothing to do with objectivity. I would expect the participants to see both sides. In other words, I support a comprehensive view of NOS, which involves multiple viewpoints, instead of a specific philosophy such as positivism or postpositivism. For many NOS issues, an understanding of the participants’ beliefs in the multiple viewpoints is more meaningful than a total score or grand means.
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