In this study, we produced a documentary which portrays scientists at work and critically evaluated the use of this film as a teaching tool to help students develop an understanding of the nature of science. The documentary, “Life as a Scientist: People in Love with Caenorhabditis elegans, a Soil Nematode” encompasses the entire process of a scientific investigation by exploring the everyday life of a particular group of scientists. We explored the effectiveness of this documentary in teaching the nature of science by examining the epistemological views of college students toward science before and after viewing. In addition, we collected written responses from the students where they described which aspect of the nature of science they learned from the documentary. The scores of epistemological views toward science increased between the pretest and the posttest (p < 0.01) with the most significant increase being in their views of the role of social negotiation. In the written responses, approximately half of the students suggested that they had learned more about the role which cooperation and collaboration play in the development of scientific knowledge by watching the documentary. The documentary overall provides a valuable instructional context so that students are able to discuss and reflect on various aspects of nature of science within authentic scientific research.
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The documentary shows that the ‘making’ of scientific knowledge is not done in an algorithmic way, following a pre-given route dictated by the scientific method. Researchers should improvise at every crucial juncture of their research and make ‘wise’ choices to move forward. That feature of the documentary captures what we mean by ‘uncertainty’ of scientific ‘research’. Still, it is important to keep in mind that the scientific ‘knowledge’ obtained from the proper validation process usually by the relevant scientific community is taken to be certain, meaning not arbitrary, despite its historically ‘tentative’ (that is, revisable through further research) nature.
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The authors thank the members of the Laboratory of Genetics and Development at Seoul National University, Harksun Lee, Myung-kyu Choi, Daehan Lee and Junho Lee, for providing insightful ideas and featuring in the film. We are also thankful to Professor Ho-Yeon Kim for evaluating the documentary in the classes of “Scientists and Engineers at Work with the World”. This research was supported by a research fund from Chosun University, 2012.
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Kim, S.Y., Yi, S.W. & Cho, E.H. Production of a Science Documentary and its Usefulness in Teaching the Nature of Science: Indirect Experience of How Science Works. Sci & Educ 23, 1197–1216 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-013-9614-5