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On assessing adolescent understanding of the nature of science Curtis, Bruce W.

Abstract

The research sought to qualitatively describe and analyze the beliefs of senior high school students in British Columbia about the nature cf science. Secondly, it proposed a methodology for the evaluation of student understanding in this area. In defining 'understanding' it emphasized the cognitive aspect by identifying a knowledge and comprehension of the various positions within the philosophy of science as a major component. The study has analytical, empirical, and clinical interview components. Two 'typologies' were developed which were based on the philosophical literature. They were an 'Empiricist view' and a 'Weltanschauungen view'. The typologies were used to generate differing patterns cf responses to questions on the nature of science taken from the 1978 B.C. Science assessment. Nine students were interviewed extensively on their reasons for making particular distractor choices and the transcripts were analyzed. This analysis concluded that there was some evidence to support the construct validity cf the typologies, and they were useful in helping to identify the differing philosophical positions upon which the students based their answers to the questions on the nature of science. It was further concluded that there was partial support for the suggestion that students' positions may be context dependent. Specifically, issues relating to science and its methods tended to be answered within the framework of the 'Empiricist view' while questions related to the relationships between science and society were answered from a more Keltanschauungist perspective. It was recommended that: 1. the typological analysis methodology developed would be helpful in constructing assessment instruments which measure a student's understanding of the nature of science from within the two generalized perspectives, 2. the differential response to the questions on science and its methods and those on science and society should be more thoroughly investigated, and 3. curriculum materials and strategies should be developed which address the understanding of the nature of science from the 'variety of perspectives' approach.

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