Taiwanese gifted students’ views of nature of science

Taiwanese gifted students’ views of nature of science

Lederman, Shiang-Yao Liu Norman G

This study examined the conceptions of nature of science (NOS) possessed by a group of gifted seventh-grade students from Taiwan. The students were engaged in a 1-week science camp with emphasis on scientific inquiry and NOS. A Chinese version of a NOS questionnaire was developed, specifically addressing the context of Chinese culture, to assess students’ views on the development of scientific knowledge. Pretest results indicated that the majority of participants had a basic understanding of the tentative, subjective, empirical, and socially and culturally embedded aspects of NOS. Some conflicting views and misconceptions held by the participants are discussed. There were no significant changes in students’ views of NOS after instruction, possibly due to time limitations and a ceiling effect. The relationship between students’ cultural values and development of NOS conceptions and the impact of NOS knowledge on students’ science learning are worth further investigation.

The preparation of scientifically literate students is a central goal of science education (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1990, 1993). Furthermore, an adequate understanding of nature of science (NOS) is an important component of scientific literacy that has been widely agreed upon by scientists, science educators, and science education organizations (Abd-El-Khalick,Bell, &Lederman, 1998). Therefore, an emphasis on helping students develop adequate understandings of NOS has recently been the theme of reform for science education in many western countries (McComas & Olson, 1998). However, research findings have consistently indicated that students’ NOS views are not compatible with contemporary conceptions of the scientific enterprise (Duschl, 1990; Lederman, 1992).

In an attempt to mitigate this state of affairs, research efforts have focused on finding effective approaches to teaching NOS. In a comprehensive review ofthe literature, Abd-El-Khalick and Lederman (2000a) concluded that an explicit instructional approach that considers understanding of NOS as a “cognitive” learning outcome is relatively more effective than implicit instruction in enhancing learners’ NOS views. An explicit approach, unlike didactic teaching, essentially emphasizes student reflection on certain aspects of NOS with respect to the activities in which they are engaged. Aspects of NOS are made “visible” in the classroom through discussion.

NOS commonly refers to the values and assumptions inherent to the development of scientific knowledge (Lederman, 1992). At a developmentally reasonable level of generality, seven NOS aspects have been characterized as accessible and important to K-12 students (Abd-El-Khalick, et al., 1998). These aspects are that scientific knowledge is tentative, empirically based, subjective, partially based on human inference, imagination, and creativity, and socially and culturally embedded. Two additional aspects are the distinction between observation and inference, and the function of and relationship between scientific theories and laws.

The educational reform in Taiwan has been influenced by many research studies in western cultural settings. Although some efforts have been dedicated to exploring Taiwanese students’ views of NOS (e.g., Lin, 1998; Tsai, 1998), little attention has been given to discussing the influence of the students’ social and cultural backgrounds on these views. One important aspect of NOS is social and cultural embeddedness, which emphasizes the human aspects of science, and the concept that science is “personally constructed and culturally bound explanations of the natural world (NCSESA, 1992)” (Stanley & Brickhouse, 1994). Although there have been some debates regarding multicultural accounts of NOS, the general issue confronting science educators is the need to consider what views of science ought to be taught (Atwater & Riley, 1993; Hodson, 1993; Ogawa, 1995; Stanley & Brickhouse, 1994).

Essentially, mainstream (or Western) science has dominated science curricula in Taiwan. However, as science educators interested in multicultural issues have reflected, studies in the history of medicine, astronomy, and technology have embraced the contribution of Chinese scientific achievements (Hodson, 1993). Although these achievements are not formally written in science textbooks, students in Taiwan learn about this Chinese science (or technology) by studying Chinese history and literature. Moreover, traditional professional practices, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, are deeply infused into their daily lives. Of interest to the researchers is how formal and informal science-related instruction and information affect students’ perceptions about science. Exploring students’ views of NOS and science as inquiry under such different sociocultural practices may provide valuable information for curriculum development and instructional approaches in local cultural settings.

This investigation examines the conceptions of NOS possessed by students with a non-Western sociocultural background during an international cooperative project. The participants were a group of gifted students from Taiwan engaged in scientific inquiry activities and explicit NOS instruction at a mid-size university in the United States. Their views of NOS were compared before and after a 1-week science camp. The purpose of this study was to assess students’ initial views of NOS and any changes in these views after explicit NOS instruction. Specifically, two research questions guided this investigation: (a) What are Taiwanese students’ conceptions of nature of science? (b) Do the participants, after completing a 1-week science camp with inquiry-based instruction and explicit teaching of NOS, have better understandings of those defined aspects of NOS?

Method

Context of the Study

This investigation took place as part of an international cooperative project, which was in its 4th year. This project was initiated by a junior high school in central Taiwan with the assistance of a university professor. The main objective was to provide students gifted in mathematics and science with an intense instructional program focusing on science process and nature of science. Each summer a group of seventhgrade gifted students from that school were invited to participate in a 1-week science camp designed by the Department of Science and Mathematics Education at Oregon State University.

The 6-day science camp consisted of intensive scientific inquiry-based activities, 6 hours per day and included a varietyof science disciplines, such as physics, geology, biology, and mathematics. Along with the lessons, two field trips were arranged to provide students with opportunities to make field observations. The instructors consisted of university science educators, graduate students in the department, and experienced teachers from local school districts, who had previously implemented inquiry oriented activities in science classrooms and teacher enhancement programs.

Due to the researchers’ interest in nature of science, on the 4th day of the camp, a 3-hour lesson was designed to explicitly teach several aspects of NOS. Participants were engaged in four activities: “tricky tracks “fossils,” “mystery bones,” and “mystery bag.” First, the tricky tracks activity asked students to describe what they thought might have happened as indicated by what they see from a picture with sets of tracks. This activity specifically addressed the distinction between observation and inference and the idea that, based on the same set of evidence, several answers to the same question may be equally valid. Next, in the fossils activity, each student was asked to reconstruct an organism from a fossil fragment. This activity presented the concept that scientific knowledge is partly a product ofhuman inference, imagination, and creativity. With the sense of being paleobiologists, students were then exposed to the mystery bones activity that targeted the creativity, subjectivity, and tentativeness of science. Students worked with teammates to figure out what an animal looked like by putting its bones together. Finally, the mystery bag was used to reinforce participants’ understandings of the empirical basis of science and the previously mentioned aspects of NOS by discussing the use of a scientific model. Detailed descriptions of these activities can be found elsewhere (Abd-El-Khalick et al., 1998; Schwartz, Lederman, & Smith, 1999). These activities were taught by the researcher who has been involved in NOS research for 3 years and has taught NOS in several teacher enhancement programs.

Participants

Twenty-nine students (10 female and 19 male) participated in the summer camp during the period of this investigation. One male participant did not complete the questionnaire and was thus excluded from the study. There was a teacher, a school counselor, a nurse, and a parent chaperoning the participants.

The gifted education program of that junior high school was initiated in 1985 and regularly monitored by a university in Taiwan., Chosen through rigorous evaluation, the students had high academic achievement, especially in mathematics and science, and were considered to have a high motivation and positive attitude toward science learning. Junior high students in Taiwan take science courses with specific subject matter (e.g. biology, earth science, and physics and chemistry) as separate curricula. By seventh grade, students should have only taken a biology course. However, information from informal interviews indicated that the gifted students spent more time in afterschool programs on science-related content than did “regular” students. The parents of these students often encouraged their sons and daughters to participate in extracurricular activities related to science and mathematics.

NOS Questionnaire

An open-ended questionnaire was used to assess students’ views of the aspects of NOS, including the tentative, empirical, creative, subjective, and socially and culturally embedded nature of science, and the relationships between scientific theories and laws (see the appendix). Eight of the 10 items have established content and construct validity in other studies (Abd-ElKhalick et al., 1998; Lederman & O’Malley, 1990; Lederman, Schwartz, Abd-El-Khalick, & Bell, 2001). One important aspect of NOS, the distinction between observation and inference, was not assessed in this study due to two concerns. Considering the science curriculum forthe students’ grade level, the participants had not formally taken a chemistry and physics course. An item in the original NOS questionnaire referring to atomic models was considered inappropriate for the participants. Another reason for eliminating the item was a language translation problem. To the authors’ best knowledge about Taiwanese science curricula, science texts do not specifically define these two terms. Chinese speaking people often use the term inference with many other meanings, such as hypothesis, assumption, and estimation.

Two additional questions (Appendix, items 9 and 10) were designed to specify the characteristics of Chinese culture and aimed to assess students’ views on the development of scientific knowledge in relation to cultural embeddedness. The development of Item 9 was inspired by the history of medicine. Since the midl8th century, Chinese society has been forcibly confronted with Western medicine’s confidence of its “scientific superiority” (Porter, 1997). It was assumed that, when comparing the differences between two types ofmedicine that developed under different cultural practices, respondents would most likely attribute Chinese medicine to the knowledge that lacks scientific evidence. This item could also be used to verify consistency with items 1 and 8. An important sociocultural factor involved in the development of knowledge in Chinese history is known as authoritarianism. The belief is strongly held that elders, having been exposed to more life experiences, possess more wisdom and make better judgements. Hence, Item 10 was based on this belief to assess respondents’ views of authoritarianism in the development of scientific knowledge.

The questionnaire was designed in English and then translated to Chinese. The Chinese version of NOS questionnaire was then translated back to English by an impartial Taiwanese doctoral student in the department. Each item was reviewed by a panel, including three American science educators, one Taiwanese science educator and one bilingual expert, and modified to gain at least 80% agreement on each item. To ensure the question phrases were readable and understandable at the students’ age, all translated items were used to interview three sixth-grade regular students, which was done by a Taiwanese school teacher in a school without a gifted education program. The assumption was that the target students should have higher language comprehension ability than regular students. Minor wording problems were corrected before the questionnaire was administered to the participants in the study.

Data Collection

The NOS questionnaire was divided into two parts because of its length and time constraints of the school schedule. The first six questions, along with a protocol for instruction, were sent to a Taiwanese science education professor who helped to administer the questionnaire in the participants’ school. The participants spent approximately 80 minutes completing the first part on the last day of spring semester (July 1). They then spent another 60 minutes on the last four questions during the first day of the science camp (July 16), before the lessons started.

It has been pointed out that the participants’ views of NOS could be misinterpreted if only judged from written responses (Lederman & O’Malley, 1990), especially when this was the first attempt to administer such a questionnaire to Chinese speaking students. Semistructured interviews were thus conducted over a two-night period after the NOS activities. Since the camp was only 1 week long and there was not enough time to analyze data prior to interviews, the only possible approach was a random selection. Therefore, nine of the participants were randomly selected for 30-minute interviews. They were asked to explain and clarify their responses to each item. This investigation also attempted to identify ifthe NOS activities caused change in participants’ views of NOS. Since the science camp lasted only a week, it was not possible to conduct pre– and post-instruction interviews. Therefore, in the interviews, the participants were specifically asked whether their views changed and what caused the change. Other data sources, including classroom observations, student work, and informal interviews, were collected and analyzed to enrich the evidence for making in-depth profiles.

Data Analysis

The written responses to the questionnaires and corresponding interview transcripts of the nine interviewed participants were separately analyzed and compared forthe purpose of establishing the face validity of the NOS questionnaire. The responses were generally classified into two major categories – informed and naive, based on whether they match current conceptions. The quotes that reflected the informed or naive conception were identified. Individual profiles were generated for each participant’s views of NOS. It is noteworthy that having a view compatible with current NOS conceptions differs aspect by aspect. That is, participants did not necessarily have comprehensively adequate views across all aspects of NOS (Abd-El– Khalick et al., 2001).

Both written and interview data were reviewed only by the first author due to the language barrier. Given the concern for accuracy of the data analysis, she reevaluated the data after being trained to analyze data from other sources. The second set of participant profiles was created separately and compared with the first set. Few inconsistencies (less than 10%) were found due to more strict criteria applied thereafter. Some problematic quotes were then translated and discussed with the second author and other doctoral students in the department to achieve greater understanding of data. The excerpts presented in this article were also translated and examined by another Taiwanese educational researcher who is proficient in English.

Results

Initial NOS Views

This section reports a summary of participants’ views concerning the empirical, tentative, creative, subjective, and socially and culturally embedded nature of science. Students’ understandings of the function of and relationship between scientific theories and laws are also discussed.

It is noted that almost all participants in this study possessed sophisticated writing skills and gave as many examples as possible to express their knowledge on these issues. In general,half of the participants(14,N=28) held informed views on at least four aspects of NOS. Following are the descriptions of participants’ initial views for each aspect of NOS. In the narratives, all the references to NOS item number are based on the appendix.

Empirical basis of science. Most of the participants (22) recognized that an empirical basis is a main component differentiating science from nonscience. The typical response was that “science is a body of knowledge that requires observation, experimentation, and logical thinking.” When comparing science with art, they indicated that “they both need creativity and imagination, but science has to have evidence.” Although 4 participants criticized religious beliefs as superstitious, illusory, and apart from reality, when asked to compare science with religion, most of them recognized science and religion as different worldviews and as serving different functions for people.

It is noted that some participants used the words “prove” and “fact” but not in any absolute sense. By carefully examining their wording manner, the participants in fact used “prove” (cheng’ ming) as a synonym for verification or finding supporting evidence. They applied the word “fact” (ship ‘ shih ) to describe something observable and concrete, and mentioned that “fact is not fixed but changeable.” Lederman and O’Malley (1990), after interviewing American high school students, reported similar findings.

Those 3 who were definitely classified as holding naive views of the empirical NOS tended to view science as a search for the correct answer. They made statements such as, “Science is different …because scientific laws are eternal,” and “Unlike nonscience there will ultimately be right or wrong answers for science.” Two other participants tended to define science as technology in that “science improves human life …for example, the invention of the combustion engine.” They viewed doing experiments and finding evidence as identical to testing how a machine works.

Scientific knowledge is tentative. Without any exceptions, the participants chose the answer that theories do change when answering Item 5. However, only 68% of the students (19) were categorized as having informed views of the tentative NOS. Those who held naive views tended to believe that theories changed because experimental errors were found and corrected and that “the purpose of learning scientific theories was to turn tentative theories into absolute laws.” More adequate responses were as follows:

* “Because nothing is absolute, the scientific theories we now developed are just from what we can observe and understand.”

* “Theories can be changed because of the difference of time and space and the limitation of human knowledge.”

* “Science is what humans study about everything in this world and induce (conclude) many theories and laws. But these theories and laws are not permanent; they will continuously change when new evidence is found.”

Many of the participants were able to elaborate their views by giving examples. The examples they provided were from science history, including the conceptual change of the earth-centered solar system, evolutionary mechanisms (Lamarckian), spontaneous generation of microbes, and the development of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Scientific knowledge is derived from creativity and human imagination. All participant responses to Item 6 indicated that creativity and imagination are essential attributes of scientists and have significant importance in the development of scientific knowledge. However, only 46% (13) believed that creativity is involved in all three stages (design, data collection, and data interpretation) of scientific process. Another 11% (3) expressed that creativity has a role in both design and data interpretation. Those who indicated that creativity occurs only during conjecturing were most likely to claim that scientists should collect and analyze data as objectively as possible to ensure the credibility of conclusions for verifying hypotheses. Four of the students mentioned that scientists follow certain steps of “the scientific method.” Two other participants thought that creativity and imagination take place after data collection.

Students often viewed doing science as a problem solving process, so that creativity and imagination should be used to “brainstorm novel ideas” atthe design stage and “make sense out of the data in order to draw inferences or make predictions” after the data-collection stage. They also described the use of creativity for data collection as making data more resourceful and productive. Nonetheless, the majority of participants (85%) did not provide any examples to support their views concerning the use of imagination and creativity in science. There were four examples given; three were about inventions (i.e., airplane, light bulb, and dynamite); the other one referred to the Copernican revolution.

It is noteworthy that, although students agreed that imagination and creativity are needed in scientific investigations, about half of the students (57%) weighed accumulation of experience and knowledge for scientists as more important when judging the credibility of scientific research. The responses to Item 10 showed that students tended to criticize young scientists with concerns about their overly creative and inexperienced nature. Alternatively, 4 of the participants viewed authority figures (i.e., elder scientists) as being stubborn and unenthusiastic. It implied that students ascribed creativity and imagination as traits for historical figures but not for contemporary scientists who work on the issues directly related to their life.

Distinction and relationship between scientific theories and laws. The majority of participants (24) stated that a law is correct and exists forever. From this group two used mathematical axioms as an analogy for scientific laws. However, in the nine subsequent interviews, 5 students mentioned some difficulty with the terminology. Although many examples for theories and laws were given, students tended to answer this question by merely using the vernacular meaning for the terms. The typical definition for scientific laws they referred to was more like “laws are given rules or propositions that scientists can follow.” In contrast with the strict nature of laws, theory was most likely to be viewed as “a personal idea,” “a shaky hypothesis,” or “an educated guess.” Five of the participants specifically demonstrated a hierarchical view of the relationship between theories and laws. Only two students provided more adequate definitions of scientific theories and laws. They noted that a scientific theory is “an inferred model,” and law is used to “describe certain relationships among things that we observe from nature.”

Scientific knowledge is subjective. In responding to the dinosaur extinction controversy presented in Item 7, about 64% of the participants noted that the differences in interpreting the data resulted from the scientists’ different viewpoints, experiences, research backgrounds, and assumptions. Two students even used the term “subjective consciousness” to express why scientists could come up different interpretations: “Because everyone has different subjective consciousness, they often see things from different angles. Just like two people look at a work of art but evaluate it differently. That’s because their thoughts and values are different.”

All of the other participants tended to discuss the incompleteness or difference in the data that scientists were using. They noted that “there is no living evidence so each hypothesis made could never be verified and could never be identified as wrong.” Such responses reflect a more objective view of science, in which scientists could make an accurate conclusion with enough value-free evidence.

Social and cultural influences on scientific knowledge. In response to Item 8, many of the participants (9) seemed to be confused by the wording and, instead, tended to respond by indicating how science influences social, political, and cultural values. They expressed the view that “scientific advances drive the modern civilization of a country and then societal progress further influences the scientific research.” Twenty-eight percent of the participants (8) viewed scientific knowledge as universal. Four of them tended to consider the idea of a “global village” and the needs of international cooperation in which “scientists who possess enthusiasm in scientific research can work together.” They also stated that “some research institutes can offer such isolated environments.” About 40% of the participants provided more informed descriptions of how social and cultural values and expectation influence scientific endeavors. Seven of them emphasized that civil demands guide the focus of science and technology, while the others used historical episodes to address the social and cultural embeddedness of science. For example:

*”In some countries, [the agenda of] scientific research changed due to the change of the policy, or social trend, and cultural value. For example, if there are lots of floods happening in that country, they become badly in need of civil engineers so many people study water conservancy projects.”

* “The development of Chinese civilization and culture is always related to agriculture, so agricultural science has been well-established.”

* “Whether science is believed by people depends on the religious, political, and cultural value. For example, Copernicus and Galileo’s heliocentric idea startled theological community because they thought that the idea was against the Bible.”

Item 9 was initially designed to elicit students’ views of Chinese cultural characteristics on the development of scientific knowledge. However, students’ answers tended to focus on the healing effectiveness of the medicines instead of the differences between the development of medical knowledge in the two cultures. Only one third of the responses addressed differences. Consequently, students were directly asked about whether they think the knowledge of Chinese medicine is nonscientific during the follow-up interviews. For all the written responses and follow-up interviews, as well, it was noted that the majority of the students (89%) believed that Chinese medical knowledge results from the accumulation of human experiences and intelligence, and that Chinese philosophy and long history made its medical knowledge different from Western knowledge. Those 9 students claimed that Western medicine has more clinical and scientific evidence than Chinese medicine and tended to identify scientific as something chemical, experimental, and laboratory-oriented. They indicated that the scientific methods) and modern technology cause the development of Western medical knowledge because “Western people believe that men can conquer nature…while the Chinese emphasize harmony of men and nature.” Clearly, Item 9 can be used to gather additional information about Chinese students’ views of science if it specifically asks students to evaluate the knowledge.

Post-Instruction NOS Views

The main purpose of the post-instruction interviews was to validate participants’ responses to the openended questionnaire and to explore changes in students’ views. The participants were provided their written questionnaires and asked to elaborate on certain responses. While discussing the questionnaire, the interviewer constantly probed any changes in the students’ responses and asked them to reflect on their learning experiences during the summer camp.

Six male and 3 female participants were chosen for interviews. Seven ofthem (4 male, 3 female) possessed informed initial views on at least three aspects, while 1 held an informed view on only tentativeness and the other only on empirical basis. By comparing written responses and interviews, it seems that little change was evident in these 9 participants’ NOS views at the end of this study. They tended to maintain their initial views, except for those with respect to creativity and imagination. Four interviewees added an “after data collection” stage into their responses to Item 6 when elaborating, but had difficulty providing examples to support their responses. Only 1 student referred to the NOS activities:

In stage three, we need to organize data. As you see, for example, we collected the data of dinosaur bones, like yesterday’s lesson. We were allowed to put them together as we wanted …we used imagination to figure it out. That dinosaur should have wing and we got it correct.

It is interesting to note that evidence from classroom observations showed that the pursuit of a correct answer was the focus of many students’ learning, as well as the verbal intervention from the Taiwanese teacher. The student’s statement above provided support for these observations. The Taiwanese teacher served as the participants’ biology teacher in school. He supervised students’ learning and was a chaperone in the dormitory during the science camp. In the NOS activities, the teacher often urged students to complete assigned tasks and to obtain the right answer no matter what the instructor emphasized or how open-ended the activities were. However, the teacher was not actively involved in any of the instruction.

When being asked about the dinosaur extinction controversy, one other student reflected upon the NOS activity as the example of subjectivity in science: “…because their research areas are different. Just like the activity this morning, everyone thought of different directions, so the research results might be different.”

Only 4 of the participants’ initial NOS views reflected the stepwise procedure of doing science. However, most of the students did not have informed understandings about the general structure of experimentation. Without exception, all of the min responding to Item 3 claimed that the development of scientific knowledge requires experiments. The results of followup interviews showed that 4 interviewees (including two ofthe aforementioned participants) indeed held the misconception about the existence of “The Scientific Method” at the beginning and continued to hold the view that science requires manipulative experiments after the NOS activities. Two of the interviewees, in elaborating their responses to Item 3, were hesitant to claim that experiments are necessary for the development of scientific knowledge:

It’s not necessarily needed, but most of scientists still need experiments to complete the scientific knowledge. [Why did you say it is not necessarily so?] Because some natural phenomena themselves can tell, for example, wind blows and leaves fall. He [scientist] may make long-term observations and infer what happened. He doesn’t necessarily do experiments.

The second student stated, “[It] may be not necessary, because some [natural phenomena] can be measured and then predicted using some kind of equipment without doing an experiment.”

Each NOS activity was followed by a discussion that aimed to explicitly highlight the target aspects. Although the instructor intended to involve students in active discourse concerning the presented ideas, only a few particular students responded to the questions. This could be due to the language barrier or the students’ learning style. The Taiwanese teacher’s intervention and expectations might have affected students’ reactions to the activities, as well as the depth of their understandings.

Discussion

Prior to NOS instruction, participants in this study appeared to have basic understandings on several aspects of NOS, including tentativeness, subjectivity, empirical basis, and social and cultural embeddedness. In their study of seventh-grade students, Carey, Evans, Honda, Jay, & Unger (1989) reported that students’ initial understandings were unsatisfactory and that they viewed scientific knowledge as “a passively acquired, faithful copy of the world” and scientific inquiry as “solely observing rather than constructing explanations about nature.” The results in Ryan and Aikenhead’s (1992) study indicated that Canadian high school students believed the tentative nature of scientific knowledge but ignored the social aspects of science. In a large-scale investigation on British students’ understanding of the NOS, Solomon, Scott, and Duveen (1996) found that only a small group of students showed informed views about the explanatory nature of the scientific endeavor and the role of imagination in the use of scientific theory. A series of investigations conducted by Lederman and his students, using research methodologies similarto this study, found that preservice teachers and undergraduates do not have adequate understandings of these NOS aspects (e.g., Abd-El– Khalick& Lederman, 2000b; Akerson, Abd-El-Khalick, & Lederman, 2000).

As compared with previous studies, the students in this study seemed to outperform some students and adults in western countries with more informed initial NOS views. It needs to be noted that the subjects in this investigation were a particular group of gifted students, thus it is inappropriate to generalize the results to other Taiwanese students. Nonetheless, Lin (1998) conducted a study with 1,670 senior high school students in Taiwan using a Likert-scale instrument and found that students had informed understanding of NOS with an average score higher than the mid-score of the instrument. Despite methodological considerations, the similarity between these findings provides substance for further inquiry.

In Taiwan, it may still be the case that science is largely taught by delivering scientific facts written in textbooks as absolute knowledge. It has also been assumed that this kind of traditional science teaching fails to provide a realistic image of the development of scientific knowledge, so that students may not have informed views of NOS (Loving, 1997). However, the results ofthis study are not consistent with this assumption. There may be other factors than school science influencing students’ conceptions of NOS.

As observed during the science camp, the teaching style of the participants’ science teacher was most similar to the traditional type. In either formal or informal interviews, students discussed afterschool programs and provided some information regarding the teacher and instructional content. Two years before this study, the second author conducted a professional development workshop for Taiwanese teachers focusing on how to teach NOS. The participants’ afterschool program teacher attended this workshop. What was lacking in this investigation were classroom observations in the participants’ school setting. Obviously, more evidence is needed to draw any further inferences, although we do suspect that the workshop may have impacted the teacher’s teaching and thus helped students develop more informed understandings of NOS.

It has been pointed out that excessive use of the cookbook-like laboratory activities leads students to believe in a single method of science (Hodson, 1998). The results ofthis study implied that the students’ views of experimentation and the misconception ofa universal scientific method related to their laboratory experiences and exercises in school science. Upon further probing about the comparison between Western and Chinese medical knowledge, many students began thinking that “the scientific method” as an outcome of Western science. They recognized that Chinese medical knowledge differs from Western medicine and does not follow what they considered to be the scientific method. The value of integrating Chinese history and particular cultural values into science curricula to facilitate students’ understanding of NOS needs further investigation and discussion.

The 1-week science camp provided the participants with a unique out-of-school experience, but emphasis on NOS was only an occasional event within a short period oftime. Apparently, the participants did not have enough time to be engaged in more reflective activities and in-depth discussions that have been shown to help students construct more informed understanding of NOS (Abd-El-Khalick& Lederman, 2000a; Akerson et al., 2000). Thus, it should not be too surprising that there was little change in their views of NOS. The other possible reason for the small amount of change in students’ NOS conceptions could be a ceiling effect. As indicated previously in the results, this group of gifted students held fairly informed views prior to NOS instruction. Whether this is also the case for regular students, however, is uncertain and needs further research.

The results indicated that some students were able to confirm and elaborate their conceptions on creativity and subjectivity with examples that they experienced in NOS activities. This finding is consistent with the importance of explicit NOS instruction. The researchers also believe that using NOS as an instructional theme, that is, involving students in explicit NOS teaching over an extended period of time, may be more effective to enhance students’ views of NOS. However, additional research in other settings with students from the more general population is still needed for more definitive conclusions. Furthermore, considering long-term outcomes, it would be valuable to track those students’ views in the context of school science and find out any relationship between their daily learning of science and the development of NOS conceptions.

As a preliminary study, these research findings essentially generated more questions than resolutions to the topic of interest. Do Taiwanese students generally hold informed understandings of NOS? What are the major factors that influence how Taiwanese students develop informed understandings of NOS, considering the characteristics inherent to school science, public views of science, cognitive development, or worldviews? What type of relationship is there between students’ social and cultural values and their views of NOS? It would also be interesting to see how students refer to NOS views when they are learning school science.

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Shiang-Yao Liu Oregon State University

Norman G. Lederman Illinois Institute ofTechnology

Editors ‘Note: Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Shiang-Yao Liu, Oregon State University, 241 Weniger Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331.

Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to liush@ucs.orst.edu

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