Date: 14 Sep 2011

Beyond Understanding: Process Skills as a Context for Nature of Science Instruction

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Abstract

Effective nature of science (NOS) instruction is explicit and should be situated in a meaningful context that encourages students to reflect on the scientific enterprise. This approach to NOS instruction aligns with situated learning theory, which espouses that learning cannot be disconnected from the content to which it applies. The process skills-based approach is emerging as an effective way to contextualize NOS instruction. This approach explicitly links familiar inquiry skills such as observation, inference, and experimental design to the more abstract and esoteric NOS concepts (Bell, 2008). Preliminary research suggests that the process skills-based approach is effective in improving learners’ views of NOS and teachers’ abilities to teach NOS. Preservice teachers have shown substantial improvements in their NOS understanding (Matkins & Bell, 2007) and evidence supports that these teachers go on to use the approach to teach their own students about NOS (Bell, Binns, Schnittka, & Toti, 2006). In addition, the process skills-based approach has been linked to increased student achievement when science teachers implemented the approach in their classrooms (Binns, Schnittka, Toti, & Bell, 2007).