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Empowerment and creativity through cooperative controversy



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Creativity, Innovation
and Wellbeing
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Creativity, Innovation and Wellbeing
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ABSTRACT Conceptions teachers’ hold about the nature of science have a
direct impact on their practices and thoughts regarding doing, understanding,
and teaching science (Smith, 1990; Kearney, 1984; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999;
Kincheloe, 2003). Helping students in teacher preparation programs to en-
gage in critical and creative reflection regarding their conceptualizations of
science is a crucial aspect of preparing the next generation of teachers to cul-
tivate conceptualizations of science more closely aligned with those held by
scientists (Meyer, Shanahan, & Laugksch, 2005) and to engage their students
in transformational critical constructivist learning (Kincheloe, Steinberg, &
Tippins, 1999). Cooperative Controversy is a creative instructional strategy
which has been shown to be an effective approach to engaging students in
critical reflection, often leading to conceptual shift and enhanced critical
thinking (Jacobs, 2010; Hammrich, 1998). This chapter will analyze the im-
pact of using cooperative controversy to engage students conceptual under-
standing of the nature of science through empowerment and creativity.
Keywords: conceptual change, nature of science, creative reflection, con-
structivist learning, conceptual shift, cooperative controversy
Empowerment and Creativity through Cooperative Controversy
Conceptions teachers’ hold about the nature of science have a direct impact
on their practices and thoughts regarding doing, understanding, and teaching
science (Smith, 1990; Kearney, 1984; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999; Kincheloe,
2003). Helping students in teacher preparation programs to engage in critical
and creative reflection regarding their conceptualizations of science is a cru-
cial aspect of preparing the next generation of teachers to cultivate conceptu-
alizations of science more closely aligned with those held by scientists
(Meyer, Shanahan, & Laugksch, 2005) and to engage their students in trans-
formational critical constructivist learning (Kincheloe, Steinberg, & Tippins,
1999). Instructional strategies aimed at facilitating conceptual change are the
subject of increasing research interest (diSessa, 2014; Kalra & Baveja, 2012;
Sinatra & Chinn, 2012; Vosniadou & Mason, 2012). Cooperative Controver-
sy is a creative instructional strategy which has been shown to be an effective
approach to engaging students in critical reflection, often leading to conceptu-
al shift and enhanced critical thinking (Jacobs, 2010; Hammrich, 1998). This
chapter will analyze the impact of using cooperative controversy to engage
participants’ conceptual understanding of the nature of science through em-
powerment and creativity.
Theoretical Framework
This study used a theoretical framework in which the cooperative controversy
instructional strategy was positioned as a learning activity for conceptual
change regarding the nature of science with the aim of increasing the empow-
erment, creativity, and wellbeing of pre-service teachers and their future stu-
dents through transformational learning. This theoretical framework inte-
grates aspects from the literature in conceptualizations of the nature of sci-
ence, conceptual change, transformative learning, critical pedagogy, construc-
tivist learning, creativity, and wellbeing.
Science Conceptualizations
While research indicates that Americans have an interest in science, when
looking at their genuine understanding of science, The National Research
Council (1996) found that 64% of the two thousand adults surveyed lack any
understanding of the nature of science. McComas, Clough, & Almazroa
(1998) found that the reason for this is due to what is emphasized in science
teaching and science textbooks nationwide: simple recall of basic science
content. Traditionally, science teachers and science curricula have neglected
the knowledge-generation process, which is core to science literacy. In our
dynamic, global society, science literacy is not only required for students pur-
suing STEM careers, but it is essential for the average citizen to make truly
informed decisions about everyday issues that impact the environment, the
society, and future generations (Espinoza, 2011). Science literacy is defined
as “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes
required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural af-
fairs, and economic productivity” (NRC, 1996, p. 22), which is necessary for
future citizens, and in turn, prospective science teachers.
The push for science literacy is not new and has been emphasized for
decades, as The Advisory for Science Education for The National Science
Foundation (NSF) declared in 1970 that science education needed more
“emphasis on the understanding of science and technology by those who are
not and do not expect to be professional scientists and technologists” (Report,
1970, p iii). Since then, national policy documents have called for scientifi-
cally literate citizens and students, not only the creation of future scientists
and engineers (NRC, 1996, 2007, 2009, 2012). Most recently, the Next Gen-
eration Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013) were released and
grounded in the principle that “students need to develop a shared understand-
ing of the norms of participation in science” (NRC, 2007, p. 40), including an
understanding of the nature of science as involving multiple possible interpre-
tations, openness to revision, and collaborative construction of meaning
(NRC, 2007, 2012). This is particularly important because there is a popular
conceptualization of the nature of science as involving truths about reality,
natural laws, and experimentation which proves facts (NRC, 2009).
Conceptualizations around the nature of science have been widely used
in independent research studies for several years (Lederman & Lederman,
2014; Lederman, Abd-El-Khalick, Bell, & Schwartz, 2002; McComas, 2008,
2014; Niaz, 2009; Osborne et al., 2003). In comparing these conceptualiza-
tions, Kampourakis (2016) has identified “general aspects” (p. 670) or com-
monalities that run throughout each list. For example, observations, interpre-
tation of data, creativity, the subjective nature of science, and the idea that
scientific knowledge is tentative and able to change are some of the ideas that
he refers to has the “consensus view of the nature of science” (p. 669). While
there is extensive empirical evidence to support this consensus view, there are
also several critiques to looking at the conceptualizations of science in this
narrow view (Allchin, 2011; Dijk, 2011; Irzik & Nola, 2011; Matthews,
2012). This emphasizes the importance of engaging prospective science
teachers in cooperative controversy in order to elicit conceptual change, as
Hodson (2014) explains, it’s not only scientific knowledge that is tentative
but all knowledge and knowledge generation requires creative thought.
One common misconception in K-8 science education surrounds stu-
dents’ understandings regarding the phases of the moon. According to the
NGSS, students should begin to investigate this conceptualization as early as
first grade as the specific standard states: “Use observations of the sun, moon,
and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted” (NGSS Lead States,
2013, 1-ESS1-1). This concept is again revisited in fifth grade when students
are expected to “represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of dai-
ly changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the season-
al appearance of some stars in the night sky” (NGSS Lead States, 2013, 5-
ESS1-2). Even with lessons attempting to meet these standards, the majority
of students come to middle school with misunderstandings. This may be re-
vealed in students thinking the phases of the moon are caused in one of the
following ways: (1) shadows of objects in the solar system, (2) the shadow of
the Earth, or (3) the moon moves into the Sun’s shadow. When middle school
science teachers encounter any (or all) of these misconceptions in an attempt
to achieve their own required moon-related standard, which states: “Develop
and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns
of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons” (NGSS Lead
States, 2013, MS-ESS1-1), they may be unsure how to progress or they may
simply correct the students thinking. The problem here is that this alone will
not lead to conceptual change and teachers need tools, like cooperative con-
troversy, to engage students in a dialogue that will encourage them to rethink
pre-existing conceptualizations surrounding science content.
Conceptual Change
Conceptual change learning has been a predominant trend in science educa-
tion over the last 25 years, based on the foundations of constructivist under-
standings of the nature of science. Conceptual change researchers argue that
conceptual change is crucial to learning science (diSessa, 2014). Sinatra and
Chinn (2012) described science learning as a conceptual change process:
“students come to the study of science with not only misconceptions about
science content but also misconceptions about the nature of knowledge,
thinking, and reasoning that must be overcome” (p. 276). Conceptual change
is complex because it involves changes not only in cognitive processes, but
also in attitudes, beliefs, epistemic stances, identities, and metacognition
(Vosniadou & Mason, 2012). Changing one’s conceptions does not happen
easily. Acquiring new knowledge through traditional science instruction and/
or simple discovery learning is not enough to produce conceptual change in
the learners’ scientific understanding (NRC, 2007). As Krist (2016) states,
“developing knowledge-problematic epistemologies requires taking on an
active role as a knowledge builder” (p. 370). This involves a radical transfor-
mation in learners’ conceptualization of knowledge and learning. The trans-
formation entails going against deeply entrenched positivist assumptions and
practices throughout society.
Most educators are not adequately prepared to teach for conceptual
change. “They hold transmission-oriented views of learning that are rather
limited, particularly if seen from the point of view of recent conceptual
change research” (Vosniadou & Mason, 2012, p. 232). This lack of educa-
tors’ preparedness to teach for conceptual change leads to students acquiring
new knowledge that lies in a vacuum of understanding. New knowledge is
never challenged and students are not encouraged to engage in critical and
creative reflection regarding their conceptualizations of science. “Teachers’
views of teaching and learning are so limited when seen from a conceptual
change perspective that it becomes apparent that the teachers themselves need
to undergo a process of pedagogical conceptual change” (Vosniadou & Ma-
son, 2012, p. 233). Teachers need to help facilitate students appreciation that
scientific understanding and explanations can be challenged and can be re-
vised based on new evidence and critical and creative reflection of new
knowledge to formulate new and better models of understanding and
knowledge transformation (NRC, 2012). The approach to new knowledge
generation is a critical part of conceptual change.
Teaching for conceptual change is an involved process of creating an
environment where students’ prior knowledge is challenged through disso-
nance strategies that causes a cognitive conflict in their current understand-
ings to foster conceptual elaboration and conceptual restructuring of under-
standing to create new conceptual knowledge (NRC, 2012). Studies have
noted that when student teachers participate in a cooperative controversy in-
structional strategies they undergo transformation of knowledge that lead to
empowerment and creative thinking (Hammrich, 1998 and Davis-McGivony,
2010). Only in this way will students unlock the vacuum of knowledge that
they cling to as their understanding or way of knowing.
Empowerment, Creativity, and Wellbeing
Transformative learning (Dix, 2015; Illeris, 2013), critical pedagogy
(Kincheloe, Steinberg, & Tippins, 1999; Giroux, 2010), and constructivism
(Bruner, 1996) share a number of foundational assumptions about learning.
They see learning as an active process of construction and transformation
which operates at three levels: 1) construction and transformation within the
individual learner, 2) construction and transformation within the community
of learners, and 3) construction and transformation of society. Knowledge is
seen as an emergent property of these active processes, not objectified bits of
information to be acquired by learners. Empowerment is a central aspect of in
these educational theories. Empowerment begins with learner agency, an is-
sue of great concern to early constructivist theorists such as Dewey
(1938/1963), who wrote: “the fixed arrangements of the typical traditional
schoolroom, with its fixed rows of desks and its military regimen of pupils
who were permitted to move only at certain fixed signals, put a great re-
striction upon intellectual and moral freedom” (Ch. 5, para. 1). Sannino,
Engeström, and Lemos (2016) argue that learner agency is a crucial compo-
nent of any transformative learning environment. Giroux (2013) suggested
that “what makes critical pedagogy so dangerous . . . is that central to its very
definition is the task of educating students to become critical agents who ac-
tively question and negotiate the relationships between theory and practice,
critical analysis and common sense, and learning and social change” (p. 157).
The learner agency which leads to empowerment is not a state or condition,
but rather a skill—the development of which requires nurturing through pur-
poseful exercise and enculturation (Greene, 1995). Activities designed to help
learners develop agentic skills involve critical reflection on one’s own beliefs
and critical analysis of “common sense” assumptions regarding the nature of
reality, knowledge, and science (Kincheloe, 2003; Apple, 2014). They also
involve collaborative constructive and critical activities (Kincheloe, Stein-
berg, & Tippins, 1999). Because these agency-nurturing activities encourage
continual questioning of assumptions, there are areas of natural alignment
with conceptual change activities (Krist, 2016; Vosniadou & Mason, 2012).
The learner agency and autonomy at the heart of critical pedagogy and
transformative learning are related not only to empowerment, but also to
wellbeing and creativity. Wellbeing and agency are intimately related.
Kaplan, Sinai, & Flum (2014) argue that agency is crucial to wellbeing: “the
growing elasticity of organizations requires a parallel level of flexibility from
individuals, as well as agency . . . [and therefore] the development of stu-
dents’ agency and capacities in exploring and forming their identity should be
a central educational goal” (p. 245). Wellbeing on the societal level also de-
pends on education geared toward helping learners develop agency (Bruner,
Agency is an integral aspect of creativity theories (Csikszentmihalyi,
1990; Cross, 2006; Runco, 2014). Empirical studies of creativity have sup-
ported the centrality of agency in creativity theories. For instance, Slåtten
(2014) found that autonomy is a prerequisite to creative self-efficacy and cre-
ative production. Similarly, Mathisen (2011) found systematic promotion of
agency and autonomy to be antecedent conditions to creativity in organiza-
tions. It is through this connection between creativity and agency that
Velthouse (1990) argues “Empowerment and creativity are not the same phe-
nomenon; however, they are complementary. They may be superimposed on
one another” (p. 17).
Empowerment, creativity, and wellbeing are connected through their
mutual dependence on agency and autonomy. Furthermore, this connection
can be leveraged toward greater empowerment, creativity, and wellbeing
through agency-building activities grounded in the transformational learning,
critical pedagogy, and constructivist learning literature. Figure 1 depicts the
central role of agency and autonomy, the development of which requires criti-
cal reflection, constructive activity, and conceptual change activity which
contributes to development of empowerment, creativity, and wellbeing.
Figure 1: The agentic-centric pedagogy framework in this study
Conceptions teachers hold about the nature of science have a direct impact
on their practices and thoughts regarding doing, understanding, and teach-
ing science. Helping students in teacher preparation programs to engage in
critical reflection regarding their conceptualizations of science is a crucial
aspect of preparing the next generation of teachers to cultivate conceptuali-
zations of science more closely aligned with those held by scientists. There
is a need for research investigating the design of interventions through
which such conceptual shift can be facilitated. This study investigates par-
ticipants’ conceptualizations of science before and after engaging in a coop-
erative controversy activity. Furthermore, it will compare findings between
participants who are students in a traditional teacher education preparation
program and those in an alternative teacher preparation program.
Cooperative controversy is a debate-style learning activity designed to
facilitate conceptual change, and has been found to be effective in many aca-
demic domains (Jacobs, 2010). The typical cooperative controversy activity is
conducted in one class period and involves groups of four participants debat-
ing an issue in two-participant teams, switching sides to debate the opposing
stance, and then coming together to reach group consensus (Hammrich &
Blouch, 1998; Jacobs, 2010). Prior studies have suggested that cooperative
controversy activities facilitate steps toward conceptual change, but not dra-
matic conceptual change (Hammrich & Blouch, 1998; Donaldson, Cellitti, &
Hammrich, 2017).
Cooperative controversy is a form of critical pedagogy that leverages
creative cognitive processes such as abductive thinking, perspective taking,
and creative environment principles such as lowered inhibition and risk tak-
ing. This study seeks to evaluate the difference in impact (if any) of imple-
menting the cooperative controversy instructional strategy between two dif-
ferently prepared education majors. This study sought to answer the follow-
ing research questions:
What is the nature of conceptual change experienced by partici-
pants in an cooperative controversy activity?
In what ways are conceptualizations of science different and
similar between participants who are students in a traditional
teacher education program and those who are students in an
alternative teacher education program for non-education ma-
The study involved 22 participants, all freshman at a Northeastern Urban Uni-
versity. The participants were divided into two groups: those participants that
were in a traditional four year teacher education program and those that were
in an alternative four year teacher education program. Both groups of partici-
pants participated in a cooperative controversy lesson designed to reveal and
challenge their conceptions of the nature of science. The cooperative contro-
versy lesson is designed to engage students in critical and creative reflection
of their understanding concerning a concept. Figure 2 identifies the coopera-
tive controversy activity.
Figure 2. Cooperative Controversy Activity
The cooperative controversy activity is designed to create a debate like
situation where two sides of an issue are discussed and challenged creating a
discrepant viewpoint (Hammrich, 1998). The goal is to come to a consensus
between the two opposing views which creates uncertainty in understanding
or the discrepant viewpoint. By seeking further information in order to come
to a resolution between the two opposing sides, this creates critical and crea-
tive reflection of understanding on students own conceptions. Participants
will either change their conception, shift their conception, or stay with their
original conception. The successful use of the cooperative controversy has
been reported in a wide variety of subject areas (Davis-McGibony, 2010;
D’Eon & Proctor, 2001; Hammrich & Blouch, 1998; Johnson, Brooker,
Stutzman, Hultman, & Johnson, 1985; Overby, Colon, Espinoza, Kinnunen,
Shapiro, & Learman, 1996).
In the cooperative activity, participants were asked to write down their
conceptions of the nature of science before and after participating in the coop-
erative controversy lesson. By doing this participants were able to reflect up-
on the conceptions they hold concerning the nature of science. Participants
are paired in groups of four with two participants on each side of the issue.
Each participant pair are given a written passage that describes one of the two
sides of the issue and are asked to read, discuss, and write a persuasive argu-
ment defending the side they were given. Then the two sides engage in the
cooperative controversy activity by each pair presenting and defending their
side to the other pair. Participants are encouraged to ask questions during the
presentation of each side. After each pair has presented their argument, the
two pairs are asked to reverse roles and take on the other side of the issue to
prepare and debate. The final goal for the cooperative controversy activity is
to reach a group consensus or decision on the issue. Table 1 identified the
cooperative controversy steps.
Table 1 (page 128). The steps involved in setting up the controversy:
1. Assign cooperative groups of four participants which is then
further divided into pairs of two.
2. Participants meet with their partner, read their position and
plan how to argue effectively for their position.
3. Each pair presents their position while the other pair takes notes
and asks for clarification on anything they don’t understand.
4. Open discussion takes place where each group argues forceful-
ly and persuasively for their position, presenting as many facts
as they can to support their point of view. Participants, as an
entire group, are to make sure they understand the facts that
support both points of view.
5. Role reversal occurs where each pair in the group argues the
opposing pair’s position. The goal is to elaborate on what was
already said by the other pair.
6. Come to a group decision that all four of the group members
can agree with. Summarize the best arguments for both points
of view. When a decision is made the group organizes their
arguments to present to the entire class. The group needs to be
able to defend the validity of their decision to the entire class.
The question concerning the participants’ conceptions of the nature of
science was open ended and the responses were analyzed by the content anal-
ysis using the software Maxqda to look for patterns and trends on how stu-
dents define the nature of science prior to and after the cooperative controver-
sy activity. All three authors analyzed the responses to account for reliability
of coding for patterns and trends.
Analysis revealed three findings relevant to the goals of the intervention (see
Figure 3 for a summary of analysis).
Figure 3: Summary of raw data analysis
Type A is an alternative teacher education program; Type B is a traditional
teacher education program.
The first finding was that in the pre-intervention data participants’ be-
liefs and assumptions regarding the nature of science were simple
(unproblematized). The second finding was that patterns in beliefs and as-
sumptions prior to the intervention reflected the lack of understanding of the
nature of science in the general population. The third finding was that beliefs
and assumptions after the intervention indicated increased problematizing and
cognitive dissonance.
These findings have several implications concerning the goal of the
transformational learning intervention, which was to increase empowerment,
creativity, and wellbeing. Because the theoretical framework suggests that
these three outcomes are dependent upon increases in autonomy and agency,
which can be developed through critical reflection, constructive activity, and
conceptual change activity. The findings suggest that participants were mean-
ingfully engaged in critical reflection as indicated in evidence that they were
questioning their own beliefs as well as commonly-accepted beliefs and as-
sumptions in society. Post-intervention data revealed that participants had
integrated meanings they had collaboratively constructed during the various
stages of the cooperative controversy activity, suggesting that they engaged in
constructive activity. Although participants did not report new beliefs after
the intervention, there were strong indications of increased cognitive disso-
nance and problematizing of their prior beliefs and assumptions. This sug-
gests that the cooperative controversy activity was an effective conceptual
change activity, particularly in initiating the crucial process of facilitating
problematization leading to cognitive dissonance. However, in the format
used here—particularly in the short timeframe of one hour—the activity alone
appears to be insufficient to result in conceptual change as defined by the
construction of new beliefs.
The findings regarding critical reflection, constructive activity, and
conceptual change activity suggest that this intervention facilitated increased
agency and autonomy, and although empowerment, creativity, and wellbeing
were not directly measured the literature in which the theoretical framework
for this study was grounded suggests that the findings provide secondary evi-
dence for increased empowerment, creativity, and wellbeing in these pre-
service teachers.
The participants came into the conceptual change activity with simple or na-
ive (unproblematized) beliefs and assumptions about the nature of science.
The intervention did cause cognitive dissonance in the participants beliefs and
assumptions, however, the short timeframe of the intervention seems to indi-
cate that time and reflection maybe a factor in constructing new beliefs and
assumptions. While creating cognitive dissonance is an effective step in the
process of causing a conceptual shift or change, it appears that reflection
maybe a key factor in order to create a permanent conceptual transformation.
Because we found increased learner agency, the cooperative controversy ac-
tivity may be an effective way to increase empowerment, creativity, and well-
being. Logical next steps for further research and exploration of participants
conceptions of the nature of science is to investigate the impact of time on
causing a conceptual shift or conceptual change as defined by the construc-
tion of new beliefs or assumptions. What the conceptual change activity does
indicate is that before a conceptual transformation of beliefs and assumptions
can occur, an activity needs to create a cognitive dissonance in participants
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The article examines formative interventions as we understand them in cultural-historical activity theory, and reflects upon key differences between this intervention research tradition and design-based research as it is conceived in the learning sciences tradition. Three projects, including two Change Laboratories (CL), are analyzed with the help of conceptual lenses derived from basic epistemological principles for intervention research in activity theory. In all three interventions, learners expansively transformed the object of their activity. The CL cases, however, show that this learning process included productive deviations from the researchers’ instructional intentions, leading to significant outcomes, both practical and theoretical, that were not anticipated by the interventionists. Together, these cases illustrate that an activity-theoretical formative intervention approach differs from design based research in the following ways: 1) formative interventions are based on design done by the learners; 2) the collective design effort is seen as part of an expansive learning process, including participatory analyses and implementation phases; 3) rather than aiming at transferable and scalable solutions, formative interventions aim at generative solutions developing over lengthy periods of time in both the researched activities and in the research community.
This chapter briefly traces the history of nature of science (NOS) orientations in science education, notes some differences in the way NOS is defined and in arguments used to justify its inclusion in the school science curriculum and acknowledges the centrality of NOS to recent curriculum and research initiatives based on scientific argumentation, modelling and consideration of socioscientific issues (SSI). Some critical scrutiny is directed towards the so-called consensus view of NOS and whether it adequately and appropriately represents the diversity of approach across the different subdisciplines of science. Of course, serious consideration of curriculum initiatives inevitably leads to questions concerning assessment policy and practice. Key issues relate to the philosophical adequacy and psychometric robustness of questionnaires, interviews, observation studies and approaches utilizing students’ drawings and stories and how best to record and report findings. After a brief discussion of some important pedagogical matters and consideration of some contemporary emphases in NOS-oriented curricula, including SSI-oriented teaching and efforts to shift attention towards a more authentic view of contemporary scientific practice (what Ziman (2000). Real science: What it is, and what it means. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. calls post-academic science), the chapter concludes with a piece of personal self-indulgence: advocacy of a move towards an action-oriented, SSI-based approach to science education at the school level, and beyond.
The objective of this book is to reconstruct historical episodes and experiments that have been important in scientific progress, and to explore the role played by controversies and rivalries among scientists. Although progress in science has been replete with controversies, scientists themselves either ignore or simply downplay their role. Such presentations lack the appreciation of the dynamics of ‘science-in-the-making’. This book provides methodological guidelines - based on a historical perspective of philosophy of science- that facilitate an understanding of historical episodes beyond that of inductive generalizations. These guidelines suggest that progress in science is not merely based on the accumulation of experimental data, but rather dependent on the creative imagination of the scientific community. This work shows that interpretation of experimental data is difficult and inevitably leads to alternative models/theories thus facilitating the understanding of science as a human enterprise.
From the beginning of modem science in the 1600s, there has been an interest in how to link academic science with the lifeworld of the student. To facilitate this purpose requires a lived curriculum and a range of thinking skills related to the proper utilization of science/technology information. The extent to which students acquire these cognitive competencies determines whether or not they are scientifically literate. The supporting science curriculum must be culturally based and in harmony with the contemporary ethos and practice of science. Never before have schools faced such a rapidly changing landscape calling for a reinvention of school science curricula. This article identifies elements of a curriculum framework and cognitive strategies that seek to prepare students as productive citizens in today's world. (C) 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Teaching about nature of science (NOS) is considered as an important goal of science education in various countries. Extensive empirical research about how some aspects of NOS can be effectively taught is also available. The most widely adopted conceptualization of NOS is based on a small number of general aspects of NOS, which fall into two groups: aspects of the nature of scientific knowledge (NOSK) and aspects of scientific inquiry (SI). This conceptualization of NOS will be described in this article as the “general aspects” conceptualization of NOS. Proponents of this conceptualization have concluded from empirical research that particular general aspects of NOS can be effectively taught at various K-12, undergraduate, and teacher preparation courses. Yet, this conceptualization has been criticized as being insufficient and even as misrepresenting science. Critics suggest that a more complete picture of science should be communicated to teachers and students, rather than a list of general aspects of NOS. In this article, I suggest that the “general aspects” conceptualization of NOS provides an effective starting point for teaching about NOS and for addressing students’ preconceptions about science. Once this is done, teaching could include more complex aspects and attend simultaneously to multiple contexts, as the critics suggest. This might be achieved along a learning pathway, in which the “general aspects” conceptualization of NOS might nicely pave the way for the “family resemblance” conceptualization of NOS, espoused by several of the critics because of explicit continuities between them. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach
Recent arguments in science education have proposed that school science should pay more attention to teaching the nature of science and its social practices. However, unlike the content of science, for which there is well-established consensus, there would appear to be much less unanimity within the academic community about which “ideas-about-science” are essential elements that should be included in the contemporary school science curriculum. Hence, this study sought to determine empirically the extent of any consensus using a three stage Delphi questionnaire with 23 participants drawn from the communities of leading and acknowledged international experts of science educators; scientists; historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science; experts engaged in work to improve the public understanding of science; and expert science teachers. The outcome of the research was a set of nine themes encapsulating key ideas about the nature of science for which there was consensus and which were considered to be an essential component of school science curriculum. Together with extensive comments provided by the participants, these data give some measure of the existing level of agreement in the community engaged in science education and science communication about the salient features of a vulgarized account of the nature of science. Although some of the themes are already a feature of existing school science curricula, many others are not. The findings of this research, therefore, challenge (a) whether the picture of science represented in the school science curriculum is sufficiently comprehensive, and (b) whether there balance in the curriculum between teaching about the content of science and the nature of science is appropriate. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 40: 692–720, 2003