Nature of Science


The Nature of Science provides an opportunity for young people in schools to develop further insights into the world of science not only in the present but by looking at the development of scientific ideas in the past and how they influence our thinking today. The Nature of Science enhances the learning of science content, to extend the understanding of science, interest in science and also the nature of science knowledge to improve the knowledge of decision making.

The insight of nature of science is stated to be an important part of scientific literacy (Abd-El-Khalick & Lederman, 2000). In addition, Driver, Leach, Millar, and Scott (1996) provided some arguments on why the development of appropriate knowledge of the NOS was essential in science education. The knowledge of the NOS is necessary for better understanding of science and manages the use of technology in daily life, analyse the informed decision making on scientific issues, appreciation of science as a part of present age culture and recognition of the influence of scientific norms on moral commitments increases the demands of understanding of the NOS. Lastly it is claimed that it facilitates to create a better science subject learning. In the same vein, Ryder Leach, and Driver (1999) stated that appropriate understanding of nature of scientific knowledge affects development of students' scientific concepts and leads to more informed student decisions related with science, society and technology based issues.

Mc Comas, Clough, Almazroa (1998) explained the term “nature of science”. “It is a fertile hybrid arena which blends aspects of various social studies of science including the history, sociology and philosophy of science combined with research from the cognitive sciences such as psychology into a rich description of what science is, how it works, how scientific endeavours. The nature of science is not particularly concerned with the natural world in the way science itself is, at least not directly”.

McComas et al (1998) explained why students should learn about nature of science, drawing on eight standards documents from around the world:

1. Scientific knowledge, while durable, has a tentative character.

2. Scientific Knowledge relies heavily but not entirely on observation, experimental evidence, rational arguments and scepticisms.

3. There is no one way to do science therefore there is no universal step-by-step scientific method. ie. science is dynamic ever changing.

4. Science is an attempt to explain natural phenomena.

5. Laws and theories serve different roles in science; therefore students should note that theories do not become laws even with additional evidence.

6. People from all cultures contribute to science.

7. New knowledge must be reported clearly and openly.

8. Scientists require accurate record keeping, peer review and replicability.

9. Observations are theory laden.

10. Scientists are creative.

11. The history of science reveals both an evolutionary and revolutionary character. In my opinion this seems to be in line with Thomas Kuhn's model of revolutionary paradigm shifts.

12. Science is part of Social and cultural traditions this seems to be against Karl poppers afore mentioned beliefs.

13. Science and technology impact each other.

14. Scientific ideas are affected by their social and historical milieu.

Source: Bishop, Keith Denley, Paul Nature of Science, Open University Press (2008).

Hodson (1991) strongly agreed the Dewey's (1916) argument that getting scientific knowledge is not important than understanding scientific method. Duschl (1994) stated that students are educated about what is science? i.e they are learning facts, hypothesis and theories of science, but they are learning where this knowledge originated from? - “how” of science. The nature of science is combined with school science has been widely adopted by organisations such as Association for Science Education (1981) in Britain.

Moms Shamos (1995) mentioned that The Myth of Scientific Literacy does not mean that the knowledge of science content is necessary for obtaining science literacy, understanding the nature of science is preliminary step to such literacy. In the 1999 the science curriculum has undergone significant changes (science 2000) (DfEE 1999c). An important change is introducing the concepts of the nature of science the ways in which the scientists work and widening the role of scientific investigations.

The science teachers found that the choice of activities in their teaching of the National Curriculum, by far the most frequently reported activity was ‘practical work in groups' closely followed by ‘scientific investigations for assessment' (Donnelly and Jenkins 1999). On the other hand Nuffield foundation organised a series of seminars to which science educators from schools, universities, LEA's and the outcome of these seminars were expressed through ten specific recommendations. The key recommendation identifies the fundamental weakness of the current science curriculum as the lack of clear aims.

Macaskill and Ogborn (1996) stress the importance of teaching about capability of knowing about the importance of technology in our lives and the connection between science and technology. Millar (1996) have drawn attention to the need for developing scientific literacy in the population. Ratcliffe (1998) explained that the good practice in science lessons should clarify the purpose of the discussion; make the science un-open; emphasise the nature of the evidence; use a framework for analysing discussion; value pupil's opinion; group pupils carefully and review the activity. Another approach to Nature of science is through open ended investigations in science which involve problem solving. The first version of the National curriculum had 17 attainment targets. Sc17 was significant; the reason was Sc17 was entitled ‘The Nature of Science' with the rationalization of the National Curriculum in 1992 and a further reduction of the number of attainment targets from 17 to 4, the latest GCSE courses as what is now called ‘How Science Works'

Robin Millar's paper on' Towards a science curriculum for public understanding' (1996) endorsed the importance of the school curriculum addressing this area so as to meet aspirations for students becoming scientifically literate. It is not just a question of them knowing about science, but knowing science itself-this is what we mean by the ‘Nature of Science'. Millar's paper and the subsequent ‘Beyond 2000' report (Millar and Osborne 1998) laid the foundations for the latest version of science in the National Curriculum and it now incorporates some elements of the nature of science.

Millar and Osborne (1998) argued that the understanding of science that might be useful to people in the course of their everyday lives and the kind of understanding that they might need to progress to more advanced courses in science, perhaps eventually leading to a scientific job, this we call ‘pre-professional training of scientists' or one that requires science

as a basis, we call this as ‘developing scientific literacy'. The courses which lead to develop ‘scientific literacy' would be an education in and about science. They would have to develop some understanding of some of the major explanatory ideas of science such as the working of digestive system or the atomic model of the chemical reaction, as it is not possible to imagine the scientific literacy without this. But they would also have to develop an understanding of science itself -but as a process and as a product. This is why the programme of study for Key Stage 4 has two versions, one for ‘double science' taking up to 20% of curriculum time and one for ‘single science', taking up to 10% curriculum time. The NC does not preclude schools offering what has become known as ‘triple science' (i.e. biology, chemistry and physics taught as separate subjects) in the 14-16 age range. The minimum requirement is that pupils are taught single science.

Martin Hollins (2006) explained an insight about national curriculum, the original focus on key stage 3 was because it was acknowledged as ‘forgotten key stage'. It is an intermission time between crucial end of key stage 2 and most important key stage 4. The pupils fall back in their attainment during early parts of key stage 3. This results a new key stage 3 programme of study for science was introduced in 2007 which support the key stage 4 programme which released in 2004.

In the new National curriculum for 14-16 years old in England this is called ‘How Science works' and stated an importance of the process of science rather than the content. The other requirement of the programme is called the ‘Breadth of study' and is a selection of key ideas from across the sciences: Biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, earth and environmental sciences .The selection builds on the work in key stage 3 and is seen to be of current relevance to pupils personal wellbeing, their everyday life and the technological world they inhabit To meet the needs of those who intend to progress in their science studies beyond 16, there is a range of additional courses.

Gott, Dugan and Johnson (1999) insist the poor correlation between the culture of practising scientists and that of school science especially with regard to different emphases on the procedural understanding of science. The Nature of science requires much more than scientists and their discoveries, and teachers have to rely on a greater range of subject knowledge and pedagogical skills for which they have not been trained (Watts and McGrath 1998; Nott and Wellington 1999.

Nandy Brickhouse (1990) suggested that science teachers who are consistent in their beliefs about the nature of science are confident in their approaches to classroom instructions and that, in effect, their belief systems are important factors in determining how they teach. Most other research (Lederman 1992) has broadly similar findings. Gott and Duggan (2003) mentioned that ‘How Science Works' includes practical and inquiry skills for planning and carrying out investigations, a consideration of data, evidence and theories and how scientific knowledge is developed and validated, also it focused towards the use of evidence and making judgements. In the society there are some individuals who do not have basic understanding on how the scientific enterprise works. This lack of understanding is potentially harmful in societies where citizens have a voice in science funding decisions, evaluating policy matters and weighing scientific evidence provided in legal proceedings.

Hollon, Roth and Anderson (1991) added that science teachers must develop knowledge that enables them to make two types of decisions -curricular decisions and instructional decisions. Why we need to learn science?

U Everyone ought to understand this at an appropriate level - for utilitarian reasons (i.e. it is practically useful).

D Everyone ought to understand this at an appropriate level -for democratic reasons (i.e. it is necessary knowledge for participation in decision-making).

C Everyone ought to understand this at an appropriate level -for cultural reasons (i.e. it is a necessary component of an appreciation of science as a human enterprise).

X It is not necessary that everyone know this. It need not be included in a science curriculum the aim of which is public understanding of science.

Source: Robin Millar 1993.

What is the role of ICT in Nature of science and science teaching and learning? To answer this question, we need to understand what modern IT systems (both hardware and software) are good at

Collecting and storing large amounts of data

Performing complex calculations on stored data

Rapidly processing large amount of data and

Displaying it in variety of ways helping to present and communicate ideas.

All these answers have direct relevance to the process of education and these help us to address an important question of when to use ICT?

Before we discuss how ICT enhances the science education, we will see what activities involve in school science. The science particularly school science involves lot of practical activities. It includes observing, measuring, communicating, discussing, investigating, handling, watching, monitoring and recording the results. On the other hand science is equally a theoretical subject. It involves thinking, inferring and having god ideas, hypothesising, theorising, simulating and modelling. ICT can help as much in this aspect of science and in same way they do in practical aspect.

In the mean time science teachers should use ICT along with their professional skills during lesson to maximise its potential. There are ranges of software tools available to science education such as Interactive White Board, Simulations, Data logging, Spreadsheets, Word processing, Virtual Learning Environment, Desktop Publication etc. Out of these, I will concentrate on Interactive white board and how it enhances the science education.

What is Interactive White Board?

It is a large physical display panel that can function as an ordinary white board, a projector screen, an electronic copy board or as a computer projector screen on which computer image can be controlled by touching or writing on the surface of the panel instead of using mouse or keyboard.

The teaching and learning gets improved in many ways by using interactive white board.

The three key areas are:

Presentation, demonstration and modelling

Actively Engaging pupils

Improving the pace and flow of lessons.

Smith H (2001) explained that the IWB is a powerful tool for explaining more complex concepts to the students and these will help students to produce clear, more efficient and more dynamic presentation. Also it helps teacher to integrate ICT into the lessons from the front of the class.

Smith A (1999) found that the IWB brings an application for all ages and ability across curriculum. The IWB increases the teaching time and it helps teachers to present online resources effectively. Compared to other ICT tools, IWB provides more opportunities for interaction and discussion in the classroom. The student gets motivated easily and enjoys of lesson through more varied and dynamic use of resources. The IWB allows reusing materials to reduce workload.

Levy (2002) explained that the IWB provides greater opportunities for participation, collaboration and developing student personal and social skills. Also, he explained teachers should gain confidence to access all the features in the white board and embed their use in their teaching. Bell (2002) found that the IWB can be accommodated different learning styles and teachers can use variety of resources to suit particular needs.

Smith et al (2005) introduced the term ‘Pedagogic interactivity' within the use of interactive white board. Jones and Tanner (2002) related this term to ‘Interactive teaching' where teachers use higher order questioning skills that make student active contribution towards discussion and their views are valued. Also the teachers used their opinion to test their understanding against particular topic. Taber (2003) found that teacher role is an important in designing activity in ways that challenge and build upon pupil's prior knowledge white integrating new scientific ideas.

Introducing Interacting White Board can make learners interactive with whole class teaching gives new opportunity for them to express their ideas. These are not only done verbally, but using visual, graphical and other representations. It helps them to share their scientific ideas with whole class and get back the teachers and peer feedback.

Rogoff (1990) explained that “The introduction of Interactive White Board in school environment provides a dynamic and manipulate object of joint reference which offers new forms of support for ‘inter subjectivity'. This is a form of socially shared cognition which facilitates explicitation and exchange of ideas and negotiation of new meanings in accordance with others perspectives”.

The use of IWB is not only develops the teaching styling. It also helps to enhance teacher efficiency. To make this happen, teachers should understand the potential contributions of ICT in teaching and learning. There are different types of learning involved in science. Underwood (1994) explained that the main responsibility of the teacher is to develop the cognitive skills of the child, to ensure the proper recall, understanding and active use of skills and knowledge.

Lee (2006) and Winzenreid (2007) found that the effects brought to the classroom IWB can be completing transformational or not change at all. All it depends upon how best the system is implemented and how it is used by the teachers to enhance the students learning.

Mortime and Scott (2003) explained the teacher's role who acts as mediation between the IWB and the students. The full understanding of technical interactivity is an integral part of this. In Science, interactive communication is vital between students and teachers to explore ideas together, drawing own hypothesis, discussing recent socio-scientific issues, consolidate scientific and informal ideas. The IWB contributes to the flow of interactive communication. Godwin and Sutherland (2004) described how teachers represented their individual constructed knowledge in order to develop student common understanding. Thus the IWB plays a vital role in science education. But how active the pupils are learning? The answer is how far the teachers understand and implement the technology successfully and careful blending of technology and pedagogy.

On the other hand Hargreaves et al (2003) found that the class with non-technology context raised some issues. The issue such as higher lesson pace, collaboration and participation in discussion, assessing pupil knowledge, all these shown that the technology interactivity is highly helpful.

Thus the teachers understand the features of Interactive White Board those associated with pace, motivation, involvement, participation and collaboration. (Becta 2003). But Moss Et al(2007) argued that this is not sufficient to develop students learning. But Hepper (2004) argued that the IWB provides teachers an opportunity to teach in their own professional way with a central focus of aboard, but with the excitement of media rich content. Thus it does not collide with existing pedagogy practice.

Nieder Hauser and Stoddart (2001) and Olson (2000) found the choices of technology by teachers are based on their own conception of teaching and learning. Hennessey etal (2005), Kerr (1991) accepted the above argument that introducing new technology does not produce radical pedagogical change. Instead a slow evolutionary process where these new powerful tools interact slowly with existing particles. Roger and Finlayson (2004) demonstrated that whole class teaching with technology in science forced to use computer for demonstration with little manipulation by pupils.

In Science the understanding of skills and concepts by students depend upon the facts and information provided by teachers. Clearly IWB provides number of ways of providing this knowledge.

How much the students understanding of science is improved by using ICT?

IMPACT 2 Project (Harrison et al 2002) found that the use of ICT has a measurable impact on the performance of students studying science in the secondary school. ICT is just the learning tool just it does not ensure learning. The most importance is ‘application skills; which improves students understanding. Operational skills cannot be neglected, but teachers should make sure that this should not predominate over application skills. For the science teacher, an application skills are defined as how successful they are in designing the task, setting up the target and intervention strategies.

The international research on interactive white board shows that the improvement of students learning depends on the quality of teaching takes place within the school. An excellent teacher with limited resources will deliver lesson better than an inferior teacher with all latest technology. An Interactive White Board is just a tool and technology itself cannot help for effective learning. The teacher who is the one decides how effective the IWB can be used in the classroom, not the technology.

The school laboratories are like classroom where the students discuss and exchange their ideas. The interaction, discussion and hands-on activity are very important in education systems that are not satisfied by individual use of computer. The computer should be used in such a way that it could amplify and complement an idea but cannot replace intellectual exchanges between people. Every teacher should identify the both advantages and disadvantages of individual ICT tools. So they can make judgement at every stage of planning. While preparing the task for student, teacher should concentrate on learning objective and learning outcomes. They could use the technology to achieve their target. There is a risk in education system ICT becomes over dominated by the progress of hardware and software technology. In daily life technology brings new invention in learning and teaching. So it is not tough t engage with the new technology than to understand the implication in education system. All these above arguments show that pedagogy and technology are equally important. Technology itself cannot improve student innovation. The technology should join its hands with pedagogy and teachers play the vital role of using ICT for learning. The future success of ICT in science depends on how we use it to achieve our learning outcomes.


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