, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 853-879
Date: 21 Mar 2010

Integrating Scientific Methods and Knowledge into the Teaching of Newton’s Theory of Gravitation: An Instructional Sequence for Teachers’ and Students’ Nature of Science Education

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Abstract

The availability of teaching units on the nature of science (NOS) can reinforce classroom instruction in the subject, taking into account the related deficiencies in textbook material and teacher training. We give a sequence of teaching units in which the teaching of Newton’s gravitational theory is used as a basis for reflecting on the fundamental factors that enter into the cognitive and evaluative processes of science, such as creativity, empirical data, theorising, substantiating and modelling tactics. Distinguishing phases in the evolution of a theory (initial conception and formation, testing, scope and limits of the theory) helps show how the importance of these factors varies from phase to phase, while they continue to interact throughout the whole process. Our concept of how to teach NOS is based on the introduction of such special units, containing direct instruction in NOS elements incorporated into curricular science content, thus giving an initial theoretical basis with which epistemological points of other course material can be correlated during the usual classroom teaching of the subject throughout the school year. The sequence is presented in the form of teaching units that can also be used in teachers’ NOS education, extended in this case by more explicit instruction in basic philosophical views of the nature of science and how they relate to and impact on teaching.