The influence of history of science courses on students' conceptions of the nature of science Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/wp988p07r

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  • This study assessed the influence of three history of science (HOS) courses on college students and preservice science teachers' conceptions of the nature of science (NOS), and examined whether participants who entered the investigated HOS courses with a conceptual framework consistent with current NOS views achieved more elaborate NOS understandings. The study also explored the aspects of the participant HOS courses that may have rendered them more effective in influencing students' conceptions. Participants were 141 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in three HOS courses and 15 preservice science teachers enrolled in a science methods course in a mid-sized state university on the West Coast. Ten of the preservice teachers were enrolled in one of the participant HOS courses. An open-ended questionnaire was used to assess participants' pre- and post-instruction NOS views. Individual interviews were used to establish the questionnaire's validity. Twenty percent of the participants were randomly selected for the pre-instruction interviews and an equal percentage were interviewed at the end of the study. Other data sources included field notes, lecture audiotapes, and interviews with the HOS course professors. Almost all participants held inadequate views of several NOS aspects. Very few and limited changes were evident in participants' NOS views at the conclusion of the study. Change was evident in the views of relatively more participants, especially preservice science teachers, who entered the HOS courses with frameworks that were somewhat consistent with current NOS views. Moreover, explicitly addressing certain NOS aspects rendered the participant HOS courses relatively more effective in enhancing participants' NOS views. The results of this study do not lend empirical support to the intuitively appealing assumption held by many science educators that coursework in the HOS would necessarily enhance students and preservice science teachers' NOS views. Explicitly addressing specific NOS aspects might enhance the effectiveness of HOS courses in influencing students' views. Moreover, the study suggests that exposing preservice science teachers to explicit NOS instruction in science methods courses prior to their enrollment in HOS courses might increase the likelihood that their NOS views would be changed or enriched as a result of their experiences with HOS.
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