Improving Chilean In-service Elementary Teachers’ Understanding of Nature of Science Using Self-contained NOS and Content-Embedded Mini-Courses

Abstract

Understanding nature of science (NOS) is considered critical to the development of students’ scientific literacy. However, various studies have shown that a large number of elementary and secondary science teachers do not possess an adequate understanding of NOS. This study investigated how elementary teachers’ understanding of NOS was impacted through a 1-year professional development program in Chile that included NOS instruction as a theme throughout two types of mini-courses in the program. Twelve teachers attended a 1-year development program focused on improving teacher content knowledge and included the instruction of NOS embedded in two self-contained NOS mini-courses (36 h) and two lessons (3 h each) within five science content mini-courses (30 h). The Views of NOS (version D+) questionnaire and interviews were used to assess teachers’ understanding of NOS at the beginning (January) and end of the program (December). Elementary teachers’ understanding of the creative, inferential, and tentative aspect of NOS showed improvement. According to the teachers’ perceptions, the most significant activities for improving their NOS understanding were decontextualized activities in both types of mini-courses (self-contained NOS and science content mini-courses). The implications for professional development programs are also discussed.

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Correspondence to Hernán Cofré.

Appendix: Views of Nature of Science Version D+ (VNOS-D+)

Appendix: Views of Nature of Science Version D+ (VNOS-D+)

  1. 1.

    What is science?

  2. 2.

    What makes science (or a scientific discipline such as physics, biology, etc.) different from other subject/disciplines?

  3. 3.

    Scientists produce scientific knowledge. Do you think this knowledge may change in the future? Explain your answer and give an example.

  4. 4.

    (a) How do scientists know that dinosaurs really existed?

    (b) How certain are scientists about the way dinosaurs looked?

    (c) Scientists agree that about 65 million years ago the dinosaurs became extinct (all died away). However, scientists disagree about what had caused this to happen. Why do you think they disagree even though they all have the same information?

  5. 5.

    In order to predict the weather, weather persons collect different types of information. Often they produce computer models of different weather patterns.

    1. (a)

      Do you think weather persons are certain (sure) about the computer models of the weather patterns?

    2. (b)

      Why or why not?

  6. 6.

    What is a scientific model?

  7. 7.

    Scientists try to find answers to their questions by doing investigations/experiments. Do you think that scientists use their imaginations and creativity when they do these investigations/experiments?

    Yes/No

    (a) If NO, explain why? (b) If YES, in what part(s) of their investigations (planning, experimenting, making observations, analysis of data, interpretation, reporting results, etc.) do you think they use their imagination and creativity? Give examples if you can.

  8. 8.

    Is there a difference between a scientific theory and a scientific law? Illustrate your answer with an example.

  9. 9.

    After scientists have developed a scientific theory (e.g., atomic theory, evolution theory), does the theory ever change?

  10. 10.

    Some claim that science is infused with social and cultural values. That is, science reflects the social and political values, philosophical assumptions, and intellectual norms of the culture in which it is practiced. Others claim that science is universal. That is, science transcends national and cultural boundaries and is not affected by social, political, and philosophical values, and intellectual norms of the culture in which it is practiced. (a) If you believe that science reflects social and cultural values, explain why and how. Defend your answer with examples. (b) If you believe that science is universal, explain why and how. Defend your answer with examples.

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Cofré, H., Vergara, C., Lederman, N.G. et al. Improving Chilean In-service Elementary Teachers’ Understanding of Nature of Science Using Self-contained NOS and Content-Embedded Mini-Courses. J Sci Teacher Educ 25, 759–783 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-014-9399-7

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Keywords

  • Nature of science
  • Teaching NOS
  • Professional development program
  • Elementary science teachers
  • NOS mini-courses
  • Chile