Teachers’ knowledge structures for nature of science and scientific inquiry: Conceptions and classroom practice

Stephen A. Bartos, Norman G. Lederman

Research on nature of science (NOS) and scientific inquiry (SI) has indicated that a teacher’s knowledge of each, however well developed, is not sufficient to ensure that these conceptions necessarily manifest themselves in classroom practice (Lederman & Druger, 1985; Lederman, 2007). In light of considerable research that has examined teachers’ subject matter knowledge structures and their classroom practices (e.g., Gess-Newsome & Lederman, 1993, 1995), what was conspicuously absent was an assessment of teachers’ knowledge structures for NOS and SI. The current investigation inferred the classroom practice knowledge structures for NOS and SI for four physics teachers. These results were then compared to responses communicated through the Knowledge Structures for NOS and SI (KS4NS) questionnaire and subsequent interview. The degree of congruence between the two knowledge structures was gauged at the level of included concepts, connections between concepts, and for other organizational or thematic elements. The results indicated limited congruence between teachers’ knowledge structures for NOS and SI and those espoused in their classroom practice. Most notable was the dearth of connections evidenced between constituent aspects in the latter. The necessity of having teacher candidates explicitly reflect on the structure of the subject matter they are learning for teaching is reiterated through the findings of the current study. The utility of the KS4NS as tool to foster such reflections specifically regarding conceptualization of NOS and SI independent of, or in conjunction with, traditional subject matter also warrants further investigation, particularly in light of the recently released Next Generation Science Standards and their highly integrative conception of science.

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