DEVELOPMENT OF VALUE THROUGH SCIENCE EDUCATION AND ROLE OF A TEACHER by Dr.Rajib Mukhopadhyay[1]

 Abstract

                Importance of value based education is being felt more and more in the contemporary society. An inclusive value based education, as an integrated part of teaching science in schools has been considered as area of investigation of the present study. The study has identified the problem of value crisis of learners and explained its emergence in the modern context of revolution of science and technology. A solution of this problem has also been sought. The study has explained how does a comprehensive science teaching emphasizing both the process and product aspect of knowledge in science develop learners’ value system. Though learners’ recognition of true disciplinary values of science is the specific outcome of this value development program, present study has also identified the possibility of developing their broad based social and humanitarian values as the long run goal of this program. The conceptual framework has been explained in details. Teachers’ proper understanding of the nature of science (NOS) has been identified as a necessary condition leading to such a development. Various operational dimensions of NOS have been explained. The study has also discussed teachers’ existing conceptions of NOS with adequate number of related references.

Keywords:  Value based science education, Teachers’ understanding of the nature of science, Process and product aspect of scientific knowledge, Development of learners’ value system.

Introduction

Social relevance is one of the major quality parameters of education, in general. Various contemporary issues and emerging trends in the society are the major concerns of education. In fact, in order to cope with those changes, education needs continuous revision and reconstruction. This reconstruction indeed is a critical process having a number of various considerations. One of such considerations has been selected as focal area of the present study.

Liberalization, privatization, globalization, WTO- outsourcing, revolution of science and technology etc. are few among the contemporary trends influencing the quality of modern education. With all their desirable contributions, these are creating social instability in various forms also (NCTE Document, 2004). Liberalization, privatization, globalization, WTO- outsourcing etc transform the nature of knowledge. Knowledge is no longer generated for its own sake, rather its generation is for utilization of economic gains. Education has to face the challenge of market forces, individual has the scope to show their worth. It undoubtedly increases accountability of any system or an individual, but at the same time results in exploitation and increases the possibility of unhealthy competition between the weak and strong (Mukhopadhyay, 2011). Revolution of science and technology transforms the traditional way of life. But, in addition, it also results in several problems. Over dependence on technology, particularly in the context of learning science, increases the possibility of degradation of human intellect (Neo et al.,2007). Explosion of information in spite of its several beneficial aspects, increases the load of school curriculum in general, and in the discipline science, in particular. As a consequence, ‘product aspect of knowledge in science’ is being emphasized by both the teacher and learner encouraging examination oriented learning only (Abell and Lederman, 2007). Different scientific concepts are directly told to the students, they are not allowed to think for themselves (Meador, 2003). These result in the problem of encouragement of mere rote memorization of good deal of information without due concern to information processing leading to exploration of new knowledge. Therefore, ‘process aspect of learning science’ is being neglected very much under this circumstance (Aktamis and Ergin, 2008).  As a result, science teaching fails to nurture learners’ creativity by encouraging their knowledge construction, in spite of having enough scope of such nurturance within its own domain (Lee, 2002). This may lead to learners’ failure of perceiving the true nature of learning science and also their failure in developing favorable attitude to contribute significantly for the benefit of society and human being utilizing their knowledge of science. This is also one type of value crisis of learners, particularly in the present context of revolution of science and technology.

The impact of these problems emerging in the present social context, especially on the educated youth, including school learners, is a matter of serious concern. The situation demands that teachers should concentrate their attention on inculcation and restoration of values. A common practice in this regard is to consider value education as a separate discipline. But this separate inclusion increases the possibility of many fold load on curriculum, as well. Therefore, it seems to be more justified to incorporate value-based education in an inclusive manner, as an integrated component of different other subject disciplines usually taught in school. Without increasing any further load on existing curriculum, it helps in inculcating value system in the  mind of learners as a part of day-to-day teaching learning activities of different subjects. Present study is an active search for identifying a suitable way of ensuring such value-based education integrated as a part of teaching learning science particularly.

Each discipline has its own value system. Proper understanding of these values may be a part of this value based education, inclusive to learning of those disciplines (Morten and Vanessa, 2007). Science has its own values also. Teachers’ proper understanding of the nature of science (NOS) helps them in realizing these intrinsic values (Lederman, 1992). This, again may also lead to an effective learning of those values by the learner ultimately (through the transfer of value system from teacher to learner; Carey and Smith: 1993) leading to a value based science education, inclusive to the learning science as the consequence. Some questions arise in this context- what is the nature of science?  How do the teachers’ perceive this? How does teachers’ understanding and proper perception of that nature help in promoting learners’ value system?

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

  1. To explain the Nature of Science (NOS) – as recommended by different researchers.

2.       To describe teachers’ understanding of the nature- as identified by science educators.

3.       To identify how does teachers’ understanding of NOS help in promoting learners’ value system.

  1. The detailed conceptual framework is explained in the present study stepwise, which is as follows.

Nature of Science (NOS)

Science and technology play increasingly important roles in our lives. Most people probably realize that understanding science is important – at least for scientists – but scientists as well as the common people may not fully appreciate the importance of understanding the Nature of Science (NOS) – that is, the nature of scientific knowledge and the processes that generate it. We are so accustomed to science being part of our lives that we take for granted that everyone knows what it is, but the reality is entirely different. Studies have shown that NOS misconceptions are prevalent among high school and college students and even among teachers (Chen, 2005).

Science, in most of the cases is considered in terms of several information (facts, theories, laws, phenomenon) etc which already exist. Undoubtedly this is one of the major aspects of science- but science in true sense is something more than this. It is a body of knowledge and at the same time the way of knowing (scientific process). Truth is the major concern of science and science considers truth as a product, as well as a process (Mukhopadhyay, 2011). To explore the objective reality of natural world is the ultimate aim of science, but for that exploration- people (including scientists) are guided very much by their subjective perception of reality. So what is science then? McComas (1998) has identified the following features of science:

  • Science produces, demands and relies on empirical evidence
  • Experiments are not the only route to knowledge
  • Science uses both inductive reasoning and hypothetico-deductive testing
  • Scientists make observations and produce inferences
  • There is no single step-wise scientific method by which all science is done
  • Science has a creative component
  • Observations, ideas and conclusions in science are not entirely objective
  • Historical, cultural and social influences impact the practice and direction of science
  • Scientific knowledge is tentative, durable and self-correcting

The nature of science (NOS) typically refers to “the values and assumptions inherent to science, scientific knowledge and/or the development of scientific knowledge” (Lederman, 1992). In fact, NOS has a multidimensional construct and is defined operationally in a number of ways by different researchers. National and international science education standards have recognized the nature of science in terms of the seven components namely: tentativeness of scientific knowledge (subject to verification and reconceptualization), observation and inference, subjectivity and objectivity, creativity and rationality, social and cultural embeddedness, theories and laws, and scientific methods. Rubba and Andersen (1978) have identified 6 postulates of nature of scientific knowledge. According to this, scientific knowledge – 1) provides people with many capabilities, but does not provide instruction on how to use them; 2) is a product of human intellect; 3) is never proven in the absolute and final sense; 4) tends toward simplicity but not to the exclusion of complexity; 5) is capable of public empirical test; and 6) is born out of an effort to understand the unity of nature

According to Karl Popper’s ‘philosophy of Science’, there is no absolute scientific truth. A person only perceives a relative scientific truth, which is tentative. It is ‘falsify able’, as well.

Scientists always search for exploring the underlying truth of the natural world. For doing this, they are guided very much by their perception of relative truth, which they develop on the basis of their background scientific knowledge of scientific principles, concepts and theories. If their perception of truth fails to explain reality of natural world, discrepancy between theory and fact may appear resulting problems. In search of the solutions of those problems, scientists formulate multiple hypotheses and testify them stepwise. scientific investigation thus begins. This ultimately leads to ‘falsification’ (Popper, 1956), establishing failure of inappropriate hypotheses.  hypotheses, which are not falsified, are retained and considered as the solutions of the problem. Popper called this approach as ‘error elimination’, which helps scientists to realize the truth of higher degree of probability. The solutions thus emerge, though are tentative also and subject to further falsification for realizing the truth of more and more higher degree of probability. This is why science is dynamic and an ongoing activity resulting in newer and newer theories to emerge.

Teachers’ understanding of NOS

Up gradation of knowledge of science teachers is important particularly in the context of modern scientific and technical society. Science has a rapidly changing knowledge base and expanding relevance to societal issues, and teachers need ongoing opportunities to build their understanding and ability (Abell and Lederman, 2007).  Professional development for science teachers should be analogous to professional development for other professionals. Becoming an effective science teacher is a continuous process that stretches from pre- service experiences in undergraduate years to the end of a professional career. But the question arises in this context: What should be the nature of science teachers’ professional knowledge? Whether it should include their understanding of various dimensions of NOS as an essential component? Explanation is as follows.

Shulman (1987) has proposed a model for understanding the specialized knowledge useful for a teacher necessary to make others learn, in general. This is a widely accepted model indicating the nature of professional knowledge essential for a teacher. The knowledge, as proposed by the model, is called as pedagogical content knowledge leading to teachers’ professional development. Subject content knowledge, teachers’ knowledge on the nature of the discipline to be taught, students’ perception of its learning etc. have been considered major components of this pedagogical content knowledge of a teacher, in general. This view is also supported by Magnussion, Krajcik, and Borko (1999). They have identified essential components of science  teachers’ professional knowledge. Teachers’ understanding of general features of science and knowledge of students’ science understanding were few among these, as considered. Anderson (1992) has proposed five components of teachers’ knowledge of context namely knowledge of socio-cultural perspectives, economic perspective, subject matter perspective, psychological perspective, and philosophical perspective. This proposal is also in the same line of the considerations of the early researchers in this regard, as referred.

Views of different science educators therefore reveal that, the knowledge of philosophical perspective of science indicating the nature of the discipline is undoubtedly an essential component of professional knowledge of a science teacher, in particular, helping him in realizing the right spirit of teaching science.  Now the question arises how does this understanding promote learners’ value system?  This is explained in the following section.

Teachers’ understanding of NOS and promotion of learners’ value system

In fact, research on understanding the nature of science (NOS) of the teachers is receiving more and more attention of science educators. This understanding, both at the national, as well as the international level, has been considered as one of the important objectives of science education [McComas, 2008]. In the most recent science education reform movements, this understanding has also been identified as one of the critical elements of developing students’ scientific literacy (Abell and Lederman, 2007). Teachers’ adequate knowledge on various dimensions of the nature of science might help them in making the teaching comprehensive emphasizing on both the process and the product aspect of knowledge. Learners thus may get acquainted with various scientific information and at the same time with various process skills (recognition of a problem identifying the variables, proper analysis of it, formulation of multiple hypotheses as the probable solutions, to conduct suitable experiments for verification or falsification leading to the solution, etc, Aktamis & Ergin: 2008) to acquire those information. For example- understanding the feature that ‘scientific knowledge is tentative’ (Rubba and Anderson, 1978) may enable a science teacher recognizes that science is dynamic by nature.  With this realization, the teacher may encourage students to verify scientific knowledge through proper observation, experimentation, and inference; which are three major skills of science learning. With understanding of the nature of scientific observation that ‘observation may be affected  by observer’s anticipation’, the knowledge that  ‘there is multiplicity in scientific methods’, and also the understanding that ‘subjectivity is an essential component of scientific knowledge’ (Chen, 2005) – teacher  will develop favorable attitude in accepting learners’ point of view encouraging learners’ construction of knowledge.  Teachers’ recognition of the ‘importance of learners’ imagination’ (Rubba and Anderson, 1978) may ensure greater possibility of freedom in learning science. Science teaching in this way will not remain only rule bound and mechanical. Understanding of all these will arise learners’ interest in learning science to a greater extent, motivate them more strongly encouraging their spirit of scientific enquiry, cultivating a proper scientific temper.  As the consequence, students may be involved more deeply in learning science, in the same way as a scientist is deeply involved in exploring underlying truth of the nature. Learners may be more critically aware and attentive in their science classes. They may participate more actively with their new ideas and imagination resulting in a more lively science class.

Therefore, teachers’ understanding of various aspects of NOS, in this way will ensure a scientific value based teaching, which may incline learners towards active search of scientific knowledge reducing the possibility of mere examination oriented learning. This might also increase the possibility of encouraging skills of higher order learning including learners’ creative vision leading to a joyful learning, as the consequence. In long run, their pleasure in learning science may also provide them a feeling of joy in contributing something significant for the development of society. Their aroused critical awareness in science class may enable them in recognizing various problems emerging in the present context of complex society. With their creative vision (nurtured in a science class), they may also find effective solutions of those multidimensional and critical problems.  In this way their thrust for scientific knowledge will attain a social dimension developing their commitment to the nation and broad based humanitarian values through the process of transfer of learning. This is how teachers’ knowledge of NOS can promote learners’ value system. But what is the present reality? Whether science teachers are having sound understanding of the nature of the construct NOS? Following review might throw sufficient light in it.

Teachers’ existing conception of NOS- a brief review

Development of teachers’ conceptions of the NOS, particularly has been a concern of science educators for several years (Carey and Smith, 1993). However, these studies have consistently shown teachers’ several common misconceptions of science. For example, researchers (Aikenhead and Ryan, 1992) used the Views on Science-Technology-Society (VOSTS) instrument to assess high school teachers’ viewpoints on the epistemology of science. They found that majority of the teachers were “apparently influenced by a classic but erroneous notion that many discoveries occur by accident, a notion heralded in the media and by popular writers of the history of science” (p.566). In another study, with a Likert-scale instrument Nature of Scientific Knowledge Scale (NSKS), another group of researchers (Rubba et. al., 1981) identified that teachers even teaching high secondary students tended to be neutral toward the statement of “scientific theories and laws are true beyond a doubt”. It was also reported (Haidar and Balfakih, 1999) that Emirate high school teachers held mixed understanding about the nature of science. The study suggested that cultural background influence teachers’views about the nature of science. In a separate study, it was also found that (Kang et al., 2005) most Korean teachers had an absolutist/empirical perspective of the nature of science. Trainee teachers’ conceptions of the NOS remained unchanged over the year despite their participation in the project-based, hand-on science refresher course- which was also a major finding of researchers (Moss et al., 2001) in this regard.. However, another related study in this area (Khishfe and Khalick, 2002) identified that an explicit and reflective inquiry-oriented approach was more effective than an implicit inquiry-oriented approach in promoting NOS conceptions. Studies on teachers’ views on the NOS revealed that teachers held many naive views (Clough, 1997). For example, these studies reported that majority of teachers believed that scientists follow a receipt so called scientific method in their investigation and scientific models are copies of reality rather than human invention. In addition, they overlook the role of creativity and imagination in science.

Review therefore reveals that in spite of the necessity of understanding the nature of science, a major number of existing studies on science education indicate science teachers’ poor perception of  NOS. This poor understanding of teachers may be one of the probable causes for which learners fail to perceive the true nature of learning science and also to recognize socio cultural aspects of science that science is for the benefit of society and human being. This failure may lead to one type of value crisis of learners, particularly in the present context of technicalities and complexities of the modern scientific society.

Conclusion

Discussion therefore explains the construct ‘nature of science’ in details. It reveals that, scientific knowledge is never absolute or certain. This knowledge, including facts, theories, laws etc. is rather tentative. It is subjective, as well. Nature of learners’ scientific enquiry and that of scientific investigation of scientists are similar, creative components exist in both of them.. Teachers’ understanding of this construct is essential leading to an effective knowledge construction by learners in science encouraging their creativity. Values of science, in this way may be emphasized on by a science teacher through his day to day classroom teaching. This inclusive approach of value education is essential in the modern context of ‘knowledge economy’ where lies the relevance of this traditional aspect of knowledge, even in the modern context of technical society. Available studies indicate teachers’ poor understanding of NOS.  Role of effective design of teacher education program therefore is necessary in order to facilitate this functional knowledge of science teachers and its proper utilization through effective action in order to promote learners’ value system in the domain of science as an immediate outcome leading to development of broad based social values as a long run goal.

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[1] Department of Education, St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.