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Turkish Preservice Elementary School Teachers' Beliefs About the Nature of Science

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Turkish Preservice Elementary School Teachers' Beliefs About the Nature of Science
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  Turkish Preservice Elementary School Teachers' BeliefsAbout The Nature of Science 1 Esra Macaroglu Mehmet F. Tasar Erdat Cataloglu The Pennsylvania State UniversityDepartment of Curriculum & InstructionScience Education Program167 Chambers BuildingUniversity Park, PA 16802 A paper presented at the annual meeting of National Association for Research inScience Teaching (NARST), 19-22 April 1998, San Diego, CA.   1   This paper presentation was supported by The Turkish Higher Education Council/World Bank National EducationDevelopment Project (NEDP).  2 Abstract This study samples the Turkish pre-service elementary teachers' beliefs about the nature of science. The questionnaire consists of two parts. In the first part five open-ended questions were used from Lunetta and Koul (1996) to asses pre-service teachers' ability to incorporate the nature of science in their teaching. The second part is based on Taylor and Frasers' cross-national study (1997) on constructivist classroom environments and science teachers' beliefs in Australia and Taiwan. The Beliefs About Science and School Science Questionnaire (BASSSQ) in that study was used to collect quantitative data on pre-service teachers' beliefs about the nature of science. The research was conducted in Fall 1996 at Marmara University Faculty of Education, Istanbul, Turkey.Twenty-one pre-service elementary teachers volunteered to respond the questionnaire. It was found that pre-service teachers believe in the objectivity of scientific knowledge and yet believe that it is subject to change. Introduction Since the mid-nineteenth century Turkey is struggling with educational problems. The fastgrowth of population, migration toward cities, and political struggle are regarded and cited as themain causes of educational problems (Akyuz, 1994). However, little attention has been paid to theteachers' needs or more general teacher education (Cataloglu, 1996). Nowadays there is an ongoingeducational reform in Turkey initiated with National Educational Development Project. The projectemphasizes elementary science teacher education as being the one of the major parts of the reform.Aldridge et al.'s (1997) study has shown that educational change (e.g. constructivist reform inschool science) is directly related to the resistant nature of teachers' beliefs. Additionally, teachers'beliefs about the nature of science influenced by how they interpret and implement the curriculum intheir teaching process (Aldridge at all, 1997). However, the literature review on teachers' beliefsabout the nature of science and their impact on teaching science in Turkey showed that there is nostudy conducted about these issues. Thus, we see an urgent need to study elementary scienceteachers' beliefs about the nature of science. More specifically, this preliminary research samplesfirst, what beliefs about the certainty of scientific knowledge -a dimension of nature of science- areheld by the Turkish pre-service elementary school teachers and second, their epistemological statusin science teaching.  3 Literature Review There are numerous research studies related to the nature of science. Most recently Driver(1996) defines the understanding of the nature of science as: … ideas which a student has about science, as distinct from their ideas about the natural world itselfhow the body of public knowledge called science has been established and is added to; what ourgrounds are for considering it reliable knowledge; how the agreement which characterizes much ofscience is maintained (p.13). Driver (1996) and Lederman (1992) reviewed the literature about understanding of the nature ofscience from different perspectives. Driver (1996) summarizes why understanding of the nature ofscience matters. There are 5 arguments in her review and all agree on one point, that is,understanding of the nature of science is an essential component of public understanding of sciencewhich count as scientific literacy. Driver summarizes the arguments in the literature as follows: A utilitarian argument  : an understanding of the nature of science is necessary if people are to makesense of the science and manage the technological objects and processes they encounter in everydaylife (Driver, 1996, p.16 ).This argument brings the process approach to science and identifies the nature of science with amethod of inquiry. The approach claims that the essential characteristic of education in science isthat it introduces pupils to the methods of science. According to the approach science is defined asa powerful and general method of inquiry. Science as a method of inquiry can be learned and thenused in both scientific and non-scientific contexts (Driver, 1996).  A democratic argument  : an understanding of the nature of science is necessary if people are tomake sense of socio-scientific issues and participate in the decision-making process (Driver, 1996,p.18). An understanding of the socioeconomic issues requires not only knowing science content but alsounderstanding of the nature of science and scientific knowledge. Individuals ability to assimilateinformation from published sources and to make decisions on these socio-scientific issues is directlyrelated to their understanding of the nature of science. For example, understanding socio-scientificissues might depend upon sophisticated understanding of the processes of generation andvalidation of scientific knowledge and awareness of the inherent uncertainty of the data availableand the knowledge claims made (Driver, 1996). A cultural argument  : an understanding of the nature of science is necessary in order to appreciatescience as a major element of contemporary culture (Driver, 1996, p.19).   4 Public need to understand and share the aims and aspirations of the scientific enterprise.Understanding how resources are used on society's behalf is an important aspect of the culturalargument (Driver, 1996). A moral argument  : learning about the nature of science can help develop awareness of the nature ofscience, and in particular the norms of the scientific community, embodying moral commitments whichare of general value (Driver, 1996, p.19). The argument is based on Mertons (1942) institutional norms of science, universalism, communism,disinterestedness and organized skepticism which provide moral prescriptions (Driver, 1996). A science learning argument  :: an understanding of the nature of science supports successful learningof science content (Driver, 1996, p. 20). Understanding the nature of science helps students come to an understanding of ideas about thebehavior of the natural world. It is important that scientific generalizations and theoreticalexplanations are presented to children as conjectures (or hypotheses) which can be checked outagainst the data and not as deductions from what has been observed (Driver, 1996).Besides these arguments Driver also summarizes other research findings about why learning thenature of science matters around two important themes.1. Understanding the nature of science includes understanding the relationship between evidenceand explanation, which is critical to science learning. Students' interpretations of evidence areinfluenced by their commitment to a theory. Driver (1996) reports from Carey (1989) that it isimportant to help children understand that, in science, observations are made purposefully.Carey (1989) emphasizes that students are not challenged to utilize ... process skills in exploring,developing and evaluating their own ideas about natural phenomena. Rather instruction in theskills and methods of science is considered as being outside the context of genuine inquiry.Thus, there is no context for addressing the nature and purpose of scientific inquiry or the natureof scientific knowledge (Driver, 1996, p.22). Drivers comment is helpful to understand theimportance of understanding of the nature of science and scientific inquiry in learning science.2. Putting emphasis on teaching the history and nature of science will help students understand thesimilarities between their own learning and the historical progress in scientific understanding.Driver reports similar comments about the inclusion of history and nature of science from Hudson(1988), Duschl (1990), and Solomon (1991). They all argue that reflecting on events in thehistory of science will help students construct better understanding in their own science learning(Driver, 1996).Lastly, better understanding in nature of science leads individuals to a stronger sense of ownershipof the scientific enterprise and to greater public support for science and technology. Why  5 understanding the nature of science matters is researched by others also (Harty, Samuel, &Anderson, 1991; Aldridge & Taylor, 1997 among others). In their research, Harty, Samuel, andAnderson (1991) looked for the relationship between understanding the nature of science andhaving positive attitudes towards science. Their research finding reveals that developing anunderstanding of the nature of science is independent from developing better attitudes towardsscience and science teaching, but better understanding of the nature of science might influencepositive attitudes towards science and science teaching. Aldridge and Taylors (1997) researchfindings reveal that the way in which people interpret events are then influenced by their constructs,schema, beliefs, and understandings. Both for teachers' and students' understanding the nature ofscience is influential in how they make their interpretations. Students' Understanding of the Nature of Science Research studies on student's conception about the nature of science share similar findings.The most common research finding about high school students' states that their understanding ofscience and scientist is inadequate. High school students believe that scientific knowledge isabsolute and they hold absolutist view of the nature of scientific hypothesis and theories (Wilson,1954, Klopfer & Cooley, 1961, Korth, 1969, Broadhurst, 1970, Aikenhead, 1972, 1973, Rubba,1977, Body, 1979 as cited in Lederman, 1992). There are some recent research studies onstudents' understanding of the nature of science that are limited to the identification of students'conceptions (Lederman, 1986, Lederman & OMalley, 1990, Cotham & Smith, 1981, Gilbert, 1991).These studies are beyond the scope of this paper.In her recent study, Driver (1996) reports from Shapiro (1989, 1994) that research findingssupport evidence for a close relationship between students' progress in conceptual understanding inscience and their view of science and how to best learn science. Holding a consistent conception ofnature of science with the contemporary one make a difference between students in terms of theirview of how to learn science and how they progress in learning science. Those who perceivescientific knowledge as revisable rather than static are less likely to believe that science learningdepends on memorization. They achieve a more integrated understanding of the topic. Valuing thescientific perspective and perceiving science as something to which they can contribute makestudents more successful in learning science context.
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