This page is provided as a resource and conversation starter for other faculty teaching courses in the nature of science (NOS). I take as starting points for the course the Next Generation Science Standards, Rudolph’s (2000) critique of universalist accounts of NOS, Ford’s (2008) concept of a ‘grasp of practice’, and Duschl and Grandy’s (2013) reconceptualization of NOS. While by no means complete, this current iteration of the course has been very well received by both preservice and inservice teachers. If you have any questions, comments or additional resources, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Below is a diagram showing the overall framework for the course. While my first priority is to engage students in the practical work of integrating NOS ideas into their lessons and units, I believe a strong understanding of the theoretical foundations of our current conceptions of NOS for the 6-12 context is necessary for teachers to translate these very complex ideas into the classroom. Therefore, the course has been designed in two phases. The first phase focuses on the academic foundations of NOS from the science studies communities. With these foundations in place, the second phase of the course focuses on translating these understandings to the 6-12 classroom. Understandings and skills from this course are then integrated into concurrent or future science methods courses that utilize model-based inquiry.
Beyond weekly assignments, students are assessed using the following key assignments:
- Defining Nature of Science in Context Paper – This paper occurs after finishing phase one of the course. The goal is to extract from that work specific recommendations for understandings about the nature of science that should be included in the 6-12 context.
- Science case study – The goal of this group presentation is to examine an episode in science from two perspectives: the original scientific journal article (scientific argument) and an (auto)biographical account (story of discovery). The case studies include:
- Messenger RNA (mRNA):
- Brenner, S., Jacob, F., & Meselson, M. (1961). An unstable intermediate carrying information from genes to ribosomes for protein synthesis. Nature, 190(4776), 576-581.
- Jacob, F. (1995). The Statue Within: An Autobiography (p. 326). CSHL Press. (chapter 7)
- K-T boundary impact theory:
- Alvarez, L. W., Alvarez, W., Asaro, F., & Michel, H. V. (1980). Extraterrestrial cause for the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction. Science, 208(4448), 1095-1108.
- Alvarez, W. (2008). T. rex and the Crater of Doom. Princeton University Press. (chapter 4)
- Sagan, L. (1967). On the origin of mitosing cells. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 14(3), 225–274.
- Hagen, J. B. (1996). Lynn Margulis & the Question of How Cells Evolved. In J. B. Hagen, D. Allchin, & F. Singer (Eds.), Doing Biology (pp. 23–36). New York, NY: HarperCollins College Publishers. (chapter 3)
- Cascadia subduction zone:
- Nelson, A., Atwater, B., Bobrowsky, P., Bradley, L., Clague, J. J., Carver, G. A., … Stuiver, M. (1995). Radiocarbon evidence for extensive plate-boundary rupture about 300 years ago at the Cascadia subduction zone. Nature (London), 378, 371–374.
- Atwater, B. (2005). The orphan tsunami of 1700: Japanese clues to a parent earthquake in North America. Seattle, WA: U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Washington Press.
- Special relativity:
- Messenger RNA (mRNA):
- Science-in-Action Report – Students choose a popular science book (e.g., Beak of the Finch) to read throughout the term. Near the end of the term, students prepare a paper detailing how the story of discovery from the book can be used to illustrate course understandings to secondary students.
- Scientific practice presentation assignment – The purpose of this group presentation is to research one of the science and engineering practices and to provide for the class a detailed analysis and examples of its use in the formal of a professional workshop.
The only required text for the course is:
- Grinnell, F. (2008). Everyday Practice of Science:Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic. Oxford University Press.
- Grinnell is an American cell biologist. I’ve chosen the text because he does a very nice job illustrating a number of important ideas in NOS. Most importantly, however, I find his framing of science as two conversations scientists have with the world, one of discovery and one of credibility, to be a useful one for the course. He summarizes this idea in the diagram below.
Other readings are taken largely from:
- Bauer, H. H. (1992). Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method (p. 192). Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
- Ben-Ari, M. (2005). Just a Theory: Exploring the Nature of Science (p. 237). Prometheus Books.
- Collins, H., & Pinch, T. (1998). The Golem: What you should know about science (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Duschl, R. A., Schweingruber, H. A., & Shouse, A. W. (2007). Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K-8 (p. 387). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
- Giere, R. N., Bickle, J., & Mauldin, R. (2005). Understanding Scientific Reasoning (p. 308). Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
- Hodson, D. (2008). Towards scientific literacy: A teachers’ guide to the history, philosophy and sociology of science. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
- Latour, B. (1999). Pandora’s hope: Essays on the reality of science studies. Harvard University Press.
- National Research Council [NRC]. (2011). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Social Sciences (p. 282). Washington, D.C.
- NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.
- Okasha, S. (2002). Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction (p. 160). Oxford University Press.
Here is a previous syllabus for the course.
If you have any ways to improve this course, please don’t hesitate to contact me!