Science & Education

, Volume 27, Issue 7–8, pp 685–714 | Cite as

The “Species” Concept as a Gateway to Nature of Science

Species Concepts in Norwegian Textbooks
  • Jorun NyléhnEmail author
  • Marianne Ødegaard


The nature of science (NOS) is a primary goal in school science. Most teachers are not well-prepared for teaching NOS, but a sophisticated and in-depth understanding of NOS is necessary for effective teaching. Some authors emphasize the need for teaching NOS in context. Species, a central concept in biology, is proposed in this article as a concrete example of a means for achieving increased understanding of NOS. Although species are commonly presented in textbooks as fixed entities with a single definition, the concept of species is a highly discussed one in the science and the philosophy of biology. A multitude of species concepts exist, reflecting both the views and interests of researchers and their utility in different organism groups. The present study serves to address the following questions: How do textbooks in Norwegian primary and lower secondary schools present the concept of species? Can inquiries into the concept of “species” serve to highlight aspects of NOS? A review of the available literature on species and species concepts in school is also performed. In the schoolbooks, the biological species concept is commonly used as the main definition, whereas the morphological species concept is represented by additional remarks of similarity. The potential and pitfalls of using the species concept for teaching NOS are discussed, with NOS being discussed both as a family resemblance concept and as a consensus list. Teacher education is proposed as a starting point for inducing a more sophisticated view of biology into schools.



The authors sincerely thank Anja Gabrielsen, Kirsti Klette, Erik Knain, Stein Dankert Kolstø and three anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Department of Teacher Education and School ResearchUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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