Integrating Explicit Learning about the Culture of Science into the Pre-Service Teacher Curriculum through Readings and Reflections
Abstract:Teachers provide foundational science experiences that spark interest in some students to pursue science and serve as an endpoint for others. For both groups, getting a glimpse into the culture of science is important to their futures as citizens, but this glimpse is not something all teachers are equipped to offer. Explicit instruction in the culture of science is generally not part of college-level science courses; to reach future teachers, it should be incorporated into the curriculum for pre-service teachers.
I have incorporated readings from Visionlearning’s peer-reviewed, freely available, web-based Process of Science series (http://www.visionlearning.com/en/library/Process-of-Science/49) into my class for pre-service middle-level and secondary science teachers. The readings describe the development of the culture and process of science using deeply embedded examples of scientists and their work. Students reflected on each reading by describing what they learned and something they will use in their future teaching. Responses were graded for thoughtfulness and completeness and later compiled.
In general, students with more science courses had a better initial understanding of the culture of science and found the readings engaging stories that explained in more depth what they already knew. However, all students reported learning some fundamental aspects of the culture and nature of science. Most commonly, they learned scientific language, often words with both colloquial and scientific definitions: theory, hypothesis, law, uncertainty, error, confidence. Other learning gains were reported in defining the difference between scientific controversy and social controversy over science, interactions between historical events and the scientific enterprise, how much scientists work in groups and interact at meetings, and the role that funding plays in guiding research. On their own, students struggled to describe explicit ways to incorporate these concepts into their teaching, though many felt it was very important to do so. In follow-up discussions and activities, we developed strategies to promote bringing the culture of science explicitly into the middle-level and secondary science classroom. The readings gave them ideas and are a resource they and their students can continue to access.