Teachers' Understandings on the Nature of Science

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Teachers’ Understandings on the Nature of Science: Implications to Science Education Reforms in the Philippines

Abstract. This study investigates the conceptions on the nature of science (NOS) among new and experienced teachers in the Philippines. An in-depth analysis of the Likert and constructed responses revealed the participants’ understandings on six NOS themes. Findings suggest that the notions of both groups are generally in the uninformed state and essentially at the same level with each other and those owned by other individuals studied elsewhere. It appears that teaching experience does not contribute to the development of sound NOS views. Naïve concepts emergent from the responses may serve as initial issues in the evaluation of instructional protocols and materials relevant to NOS. Implications in the context of the science education reform efforts in the Philippines are presented.

1 Introduction

Scientific literacy is recognized as the most significant goal of science education globally. More specifically, science educators aim to cultivate among learners “the ability to use scientific knowledge to make informed personal and societal decisions” (Lederman, 1998). In the Philippines, this is translated as “science and technology for everyday life” (Tan, 2008) which forms the core of the Science Curriculum Framework for Basic Education, derived from the country’s vision-mission of science and mathematics (S & M) education as follows:

“To have Filipino learners who are critical thinkers, have and are able to use their knowledge in S & M for generating and communicating new ideas, and in making wise decisions to uplift their quality of life, as well as contribute to the creation of a just and humane society.” (BESRA, 2006 cited in Tan, 2008, p.34)

The role of the teacher as a facilitator in achieving this goal cannot be understated. Thus, the major thrust of reform movements in science education is professional development. Locally, these programs have focused mainly on improving the content knowledge of science teachers (Bernardo, 1999). Despite such efforts, an “absence of a strong tradition and culture of science” (Nebres & Intal, 1999) persists in the Philippines. The large percentage of Filipino students who are unable to keep up with matters related to real life remains a major concern (Tan, 2008). It seems that the current tradition in science teaching makes students learn science content without context (Lederman, 1998). Such an environment does not permit a thorough conceptual understanding of science subject matter and will not create a people that can be considered scientifically literate (Zhang, 2005.).

Literature shows that scientific literacy is best manifested by those who possess adequate understandings about the nature of science (NOS). The product of science as a way of knowing brings with it intrinsic characteristics derived from how the knowledge is developed (Lederman, 2006). These qualities make up what is known as the NOS. Some of these were identified as relevant to science education to include among others: a) the distinction between observation and inference; b) scientific knowledge can never be totally objective; c) the relationship between scientific laws and theories; d) scientific knowledge is subject to change; e) science as a human enterprise is practiced in the context of a larger culture; f) scientific knowledge is, at least partially, based on and/or derived from human imagination and creativity, and; g) no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the full complexity of doing science.

Science teachers’ thorough knowledge of NOS is believed to play a significant role in promoting scientific literacy among the citizenry. While several researches elsewhere have revealed teachers’ inadequate conceptions of NOS (Lederman, 2006), contemporary views of their Filipino counterparts are hardly examined. This study aimed...
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