, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 463-494

Learners’ Responses to the Demands of Conceptual Change: Considerations for Effective Nature of Science Instruction

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Much has been written about how effective nature of science instruction must have a significant explicit and reflective character. However, while explicitly drawing students’ attention to NOS issues is crucial, learning and teaching the NOS are essentially matters of conceptual change. In this article, how people learn and learners’ responses to the demands of conceptual change are used to explain how students may exit from instruction with fundamental NOS misconceptions left intact or only slightly altered, despite being explicitly and reflectively attended to more accurate ideas. The purpose of this concept paper is to set within a theoretical framework of learning, and bring some coherence to, what has rapidly become a large body of empirical research regarding effective NOS instruction. Toward these two ends, this article: (1) illustrates how a conceptual change framework can be used to account for learners’ responses to NOS instruction and what teachers might do to promote understanding NOS and transferring it to new contexts; (2) characterizes popularly advocated NOS instructional approaches along a continuum marked by increasing connection to the workings of science, and decreased ability to dismiss NOS lessons as extraneous to authentic science; and (3) proposes that NOS instruction would likely be more effective if teachers deliberately scaffolded classroom experiences and students’ developing NOS understanding back and forth along the continuum.