Elementary School Students Perceptions of Science and Scientific Processes: A Qualitative Study

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1 225 Elementary School Students Perceptions of Science and Scientific Processes: A Qualitative Study Gülfem MUfiLU *, Esra MACARO LU AKGÜL ** Abstract This research study is designed to identify the 8th graders understandings about science, scientist and the scientific process. It consisted of 26 (15 females, 11 males) elementary school students who were randomly selected from an elementary school in Istanbul. This was a qualitative research in nature for several reasons. First, the nature of research questions posed guided the researchers to focus on specific situations or people. It also required the researchers to put emphasis on words rather than numbers. Because of the lack of predetermined categories of analysis, the research is more in-depth, open, and detailed. The data collected throughout the research shaped the analysis of the data and the rest of the research. Findings reveal that participants hold traditional views about science, scientist, and the scientific process. Key Words Nature of Science, Qualitative Research, Scientist, Scientific Literacy, Science and Technology Education. * M.A., Marmara University, Institute of Educational Sciences, Ph. D. Candidate. ** Correspondence: Assist. Prof. Dr. Esra MACARO LU AKGÜL, Yeditepe University, Faculty of Education, Department of Mathematic Education, nönü Mah. Kay flda Cad. 26 A ustos Yerleflimi Kad köy stanbul- Turkey. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice 6 (1) January E itim Dan flmanl ve Araflt rmalar letiflim Hizmetleri Tic. Ltd. fiti. (EDAM)

2 226 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY&PRACTIGE One of the important objectives in science education is to make almost everybody scientifically literate within the framework of global education. Although there is no consensus on the definition of scientific literacy-concept, understanding the nature of science is cited as the major component of scientific literacy in the literature. Understanding the nature of science essentially requires that science be defined both as a product and a process and scientist and his/her characteristics consistent with the contemporary definition of science be known. The National Science Education Standards define scientific literacy as the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decisionmaking, participation in civic and cultural affairs and economic productivity. In addition, the NRC standards describe a vision of the scientifically literate person and present criteria for science education, emphasizing the inquiry nature of science within the science content standards. Parallel to the science-education reform efforts taking place in the United States, there are some international efforts in Europe as well as in other parts of the world. The Royal Society in the United Kingdom, an organization similar to the AAAS, defines three aspects of scientific literacy that are consistent with the AAAS s definition. These dimensions of scientific literacy include: (a) Science content: understanding facts, laws, concepts and theories. (b) Scientific inquiry: understanding of the scientific approach to inquiry and the ability to define scientific study and discriminate between science and non-science. (c) Social enterprise: understanding science as a social enterprise. Although various individuals and organizations have slightly different definitions of scientific literacy, they tend to weigh science content and science processes equally. For instance, Driver identifies scientific literacy as a public understanding of science and states that public understanding of science involves not only an understanding of empirical inquiry procedures, but also the role of theoretical and conceptual ideas in framing any empirical inquiry and interpreting its outcomes. As implied in the various definitions of scientific literacy, understanding the nature of science is a central component of scientific literacy. Moreover, developing an adequate understanding of the nature of science is a desired outcome of science education at any level. Like scientific literacy, there are multidimension-

3 MUfiLU, MACARO LU AKGÜL / Elementary School Students Perceptions of Science and Scientific al and inconsistent definitions of the nature of science and the nature of scientific knowledge developed in different disciplines. Although people tend to use the nature of science and the nature of scientific knowledge interchangeably, they are not the same. Scientific knowledge refers to the products of science such as concepts, theories, and laws. The nature of science, however, refers to both products and processes of science including the nature of scientific knowledge, the scientific enterprise, and scientists work. In other words, the nature of science encompasses the nature of scientific knowledge and the nature of scientific processes which constitute how this knowledge is produced. Scientific processes are activities (e.g. observation and inference) which are related to the collection and interpretation of data and derivation of conclusions. The nature of science consists of the epistemological commitments underlying these activities. There is no consensus on the definition of the nature of science among philosophers of science, historians of science, scientists, and science educators. However, most philosophers, historians, scientists, and science educators agreed on some general characteristics of the nature of scientific knowledge as embedded within the nature of science. Method and Results Based on these definitions of scientific literacy and the nature of science, this research study is designed to identify the 8th graders understandings about science, scientist and the scientific process. It consisted of 26 (15 females, 11 males) elementary school students who were randomly selected from an elementary school in Istanbul. This was a qualitative research in nature for several reasons. First, the nature of research questions posed guided the researchers to focus on specific situations or people. It also required the researchers to put emphasis on words rather than numbers. Because of the lack of predetermined categories of analysis, the research is more indepth, open, and detailed. The data collected throughout the research shaped the analysis of the data and the rest of the research. All these characteristics make qualitative approach more appropriate, because qualitative method permits the researchers to study

4 228 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY&PRACTIGE selected issues in-depth. Therefore, the major data collection sources were qualitative in nature such as student-generated artifacts and interviews. The first data source was what is science scale developed by the researchers. The scale consisted of openended questions which address definitions and characteristics of science, scientist, and scientific processes. Student responses to scale were open-coded according to qualitative research data analysis techniques and consistent with the grounded theory. Assertions were generated. Assertions were cross-checked with the document analysis of student-generated artifacts, such as stories and drawings. Findings reveal that participants hold traditional views about science, scientist, and scientific process. Kaynakça-References Aranson, B. (2000). Bilimsel gaflar: Do ruya giden e ri yolda serüvenler (çev. N. Ar k). Ankara: TÜB TAK Yay nlar. Arslan, A. (1996). lkokul ö rencilerinde gözlenen bilimsel beceriler. Yay mlanmam fl doktora tezi, Hacettepe Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, Ankara. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1998). Strategies of qualitative inquiry. California: Sage. Durant, J. R. (1993). What is scientific literacy? In J. R. Durant, & J. Gregory (Eds.), Science and culture in Europe (pp ). London: Science Museum. Finson, K. D. (2002). Drawing a scientist: What we do and do not know after fifty years of drawings. School Science and Mathematics, 102, Gould, S. J. (2000). Darwin ve sonras. Ankara: TÜB TAK Yay nlar. Hamm, M. (1992). Shamos and Bybee discuss scientific literacy at NYAS. School Science & Mathematics, 1, 6-9 Koch, A., & Eckstein, S. G. (1995). Skills needed for reading comprehension of physics texts and their relation to problem solving ability. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32, Lewis, B. F. (1998). Science as it exist within the worldview of high-achieving sixthgraders. Paper presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. San Diego, CA. Mayer, V. J. (1997). Global science literacy: An earth system view. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34, Medawar, P. B. (2000). Genç bilim adam na ö ütler (çev. N. Ar k). Ankara: TÜB - TAK Yay nlar. Mufllu, G. (2004). lkö retim ikinci kademe ö rencilerinin bilim ve bilimsel süreç kavramlar na iliflkin alg lar. Yay nlanmam fl yüksek lisans tezi, Marmara Üniversitesi E itim Bilimleri Enstitüsü, stanbul. National Research Council (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

5 MUfiLU, MACARO LU AKGÜL / Elementary School Students Perceptions of Science and Scientific Palmquist, B. C., & Finley, F. N. (1997). Preservice teachers views of the nature of science during a post baccalaureate science teaching program. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34, Roberts, R. (2001). Procedural understanding in biology: The thinking behind the doing. Journal of Biological Education, 35 (3), 113. Ryan, G. A., & Aikenhead, G. S. (1992). Students preconceptions about the epistemology of science. Science Education, 76, Schibeci, R. A., & Murcia, K. (2000). Science is about facts, or is it? Journal of College Science Teaching, 29, Smith, U. M., & Scharmann, L. C. (1999). Defining versus describing the nature of science: A pragmatic analysis for classroom teachers and science educators. Science Education, 83, Solbes, J., & Vilches, A. (1997). STS interactions and the teaching of physics and chemistry. Science Education, 81, Solomon, J., Scott, L., & Duveen, J. (1996). Large-scale exploration of pupils understanding of the nature of science. Science Education, 80, Sutman, F. X. (1996). Scientific literacy: A functional definition. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33, Temiz, B. K. (2001). Lise 1. s n f fizik dersi program n n ö rencilerin bilimsel süreç becerilerini gelifltirmeye uygunlu unun incelenmesi. Yay mlanmam fl yüksek lisans tezi, Gazi Üniversitesi E itim Bilimleri Enstitüsü, Ankara. Roger T. Cunningham, ve Turgut, M. F., (1997). lkö retim fen ö retimi. YÖK Dünya Bankas Milli E itimi Gelifltirme Projesi, Ankara. Yetim, N. (1996). Farkl toplumsal kümelerde bilim ve bilim adam imgesi. Yay mlanmam fl yüksek lisans tezi, Mersin Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü. Mersin. Y ld r m, A. & fiimflek, H. (2000). Sosyal bilimlerde nitel araflt rma yöntemleri. Ankara: Seçkin Yay nc l k. Yoshida, A. (1989). Results and implications of children s views of science across the six countries. National Association for Researching in Science Teaching, San Diego, California.

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