Tao, P.K. (2003). Eliciting and Developing Junior Secondary Students' Understanding of the Nature of Science through a Peer Collaboration Instruction in Science Stories. International Journal of Science Education, 25:2, 147-72. (EJ661882)
"This article reports a study associated with the trial of a peer collaboration
instruction on NOS based on the science stories in several Secondary 1 classes in
Hong Kong. The study was not intended as an evaluation of the science stories as a
means for fostering students’ understandings of NOS as it was recognized at the
outset that it was unlikely that students would change their views substantially as a
result of the instruction, which was of short duration (five 40-minute lessons). Rather, the study aimed at eliciting students’ understandings of NOS and investigating
how students reacted to the science stories in the peer collaboration setting."
Table 1. Aspects of NOS covered in the science stories instruction.
1. Scientific discoveries are for understanding nature; inventions are for solving problem
and changing people’s way of life.
2. Science and its methods cannot give answers to all questions.
3 Scientists usually work in collaboration and one scientist’s work is often followed up by
4. Scientists carry out experiments to test their ideas, hypotheses and theories.
5. Careful and systematic study is not enough; scientists need to be creative and
6. Scientific theories are created by scientists to explain and predict phenomena; they do
not necessarily represent reality.
7. Scientific knowledge, while durable, has a tentative character.
"Since the late 1980s there has been considerable interest in the notion of science as
a narrative human story – that every piece of scientific knowledge, and the way it
has been constructed and validated, is associated with a human story in which
there are actors and events as the plot to account for that knowledge is pursued.
Such a description of science is best illustrated in, for example, the story of the
discovery of the structure of DNA (Watson 1968), which is one of the great
achievements of science in our time. The story is not only interesting and fascinating
but can also help us gain a rich understanding of how scientific research is
‘Science as narrative story’ has useful applications in pedagogy. Martin and
Brouwer (1991) claim that narrative is a useful and powerful form of expression
that is often neglected in science education. They argue that:
the narrative mode is essential to a science education that values the belief that
students must have a personal engagement with the ideas they are to learn. Stories
are our natural means of sharing in the lives of others and of more fully exploring
meaning in our own. Through stories students may more successfully begin to see the
subtle dimensions of science and of understanding the ways in which science, culture,
and worldview interact. (1991: 708).
They go on to assert that stories are particularly useful for teaching about NOS:
A problem with the formal, expository delivery of philosophy of science topics is that
it presupposes that the student already holds considerable knowledge of science and
philosophy. Yet the kernel of many of the ideas about the epistemology of science can
be communicated – at least tacitly – through story and anecdote. (1991: 713)
The Salters Advanced Chemistry course in the UK (Burton 1994) is one of the
science courses that embrace the notion of ‘science as narrative story’. Its student
book is entitled Chemical Storylines and each of its major topics is presented in
story form. Through the stories, the underlying conceptual chemistry is presented
in a context that gives it depth of meaning and coherence. This, it is argued, is
much more effective than presenting the same concepts in the traditional abstract context-free ways which many students find difficult. Legitimation of the notion
of ‘science as narrative’ was recently given in Beyond 2000: Science Education for
the Future (Millar and Osborne 1998), a visionary report on the future of science
education in the UK, which recommends ‘that scientific knowledge can best be
presented in the curriculum as a number of key explanatory stories’ (1998: 14).
Since ‘science as narrative story’ is receiving such attention, it is useful to
investigate how students react to science stories."
penicillin, smallpox, newton, stomach ulcers
story topics. Used cartoons/comic book approach.
(1) What are students’ understandings of and arguments for NOS?
(2) How do students react to the stories? Can they extract the aspects of
NOS presented in the science stories?
(3) How do students, working in small groups, develop shared understandings
(1) Many students possess entrenched inadequate views of NOS – they held
a serendipitous empiricist view of experimentation and take scientific
theories as absolute truth representing reality.
(2) Students can give articulate and sophisticated arguments to justify their
views of NOS, irrespective of whether these views are adequate or inadequate.
They draw on their prior knowledge and/or the science stories for
such arguments. Students’ arguments for inadequate views appear to be
sound and reasonable from their perspectives.
(3) The science stories in the NOS instruction influence students in substantial
ways. They can serve to (a) confirm and reinforce students’
adequate views of NOS, (b) confirm and reinforce students’ inadequate
views, or (c) change students’ views, with (b) more prevalent than (a) and
(4) When studying the science stories, many students selectively attend to
certain aspects of the stories that appear to confirm their inadequate
views; they are unaware of the overall theme of the stories as intended
by the instruction.
(5) The peer collaboration setting of the instruction has provided students
with experiences of conflict and co-construction that help them develop
shared understandings of NOS. However, many students interpret the
science stories in idiosyncratic ways other than that intended by the
instruction and subsequently change from one set of inadequate views
of NOS to anther rather than to adequate views.
The study shows that the science stories provided useful contexts or instances
for students to offer arguments in support of their views of NOS. Many students
were capable of giving articulate and sophisticated arguments for their adequate as
well as inadequate views.