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ERIC Number: EJ1133274
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1492-6156
Going beyond the Consensus View: Broadening and Enriching the Scope of NOS-Oriented Curricula
Hodson, Derek; Wong, Siu Ling
Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, v17 n1 p3-17 2017
Nature of science (NOS) is now a well-established focus of science education and a key element in defining scientific literacy. In recent years, a particular specification of NOS, often described as "the consensus view," has become very influential and has gained ready acceptance in many countries around the world as a template for curriculum building and research into students' and teachers' NOS understandings. This article documents developments that led to the emergence of this particular interpretation of NOS and expresses concern about the overall thrust of the consensus-oriented movement. First, the authors point to the overly simplified, sometimes confused, frequently misleading, often unhelpful and philosophically naïve nature of some of the individual items that comprise the "consensus view." For example, the naïve proposition that there is a crucial distinction between observation and inference is singularly unhelpful to students trying to make sense of contemporary technology-supported investigative work, and the too literal interpretation of the tentative character of science can be counterproductive, leading students to regard "all" science as no more than temporary. Second, the authors argue that the portrayal of science is too general and fails to capture the complexities and diverse practices of generating knowledge across the subdisciplines. Although the consensus approach has played a major role in consolidating the position of NOS in the school science curriculum and providing a base for NOS assessment practice its success has created a major problem: a disarmingly simple specification of NOS items, especially when reinforced by a purpose-built assessment regime (the Views on Nature of Science Questionnaire), can quickly become established as the norm for building a curriculum and designing teaching and learning materials. The great danger is that items in the approved list become oversimplified by busy teachers and taught as truths about NOS, with consequent narrowing of the curriculum. It is time to move on, time to replace or enrich the so-called consensus view of NOS with a philosophically more sophisticated approach and with a more authentic view of contemporary scientific practice--one that includes the perspectives of scientists active at the research frontier as well as the views of philosophers of science, sociologists of science, historians of science, and science educators. Rather than making generalized statements that science is subjective rather than objective, tentative rather than certain, individually or socially constructed rather than discovered, we need a more sophisticated approach that shows how these contrasting views have arisen and in what circumstances a particular description is applicable. A number of alternative approaches to curriculum building are described, including those based on Wittgenstein's notion of a family resemblance among the subdisciplines of science, followed by an outline of the authors' views of how to broaden and enrich students' NOS understanding through an approach called "understanding scientific practice." In conducting their activities as a professional community, scientists have established a distinctive language and ways of thinking about, investigating, and explaining phenomena and events; developed a cluster of procedures for generating new knowledge and solving problems relating to its continued development; institutionalized a set of conventions and underlying values to guide the continuing practice of science; and developed a community-regulated and community-monitored rationality for scrutinizing and evaluating all new knowledge claims. The authors argue that these procedures should form the basis of NOS-oriented curricula. At the very least, the school science curriculum should pay close attention to the distinctive language of science (especially the linguistic conventions for reporting, scrutinizing, and validating knowledge claims), the characteristics of scientific inquiry (including its range of subdisciplinary variants), the role and status of the scientific knowledge it generates and the modeling that attends the construction of scientific theories, the social and intellectual circumstances of significant scientific achievements and developments, how scientists work as a social group, the values and conventions that underpin scientific practice (and how they can be threatened by vested interest and commercial pressures), and the ways in which science impacts and is impacted by the social context in which it is located. The article concludes with a discussion of some of the pedagogical implications of adopting such an approach.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
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