Challenges and strategies for effectively teaching the nature of science: A qualitative case study

Date of Completion

January 2006


Education, Sciences




This year long, qualitative, case study examines two, experienced, high school, biology teachers as they facilitated nature of science (NOS) understandings in their classrooms. This study explored three research questions: (1) In what ways do experienced teachers' conceptions of NOS evolve over one full year as a result of participating in a course that explicitly address NOS teaching and learning? (2) In what ways do experienced teachers' pedagogical practices evolve over one full year as a result of participating in a course that explicitly address NOS teaching and learning?, and (3) What are the challenges facing experienced teachers in their attempts to implement NOS understandings in their science, high school classrooms? This study was conducted in two parts. In Part I (fall 2004 semester), the participants were enrolled in a graduate course titled, Teaching the Nature of Science , where they were introduced to: (1) NOS, (2) a strategy, the Model for Teaching NOS (MTNOS), which helped them facilitate teaching NOS understandings through inquiry-based activities, and (3) participated in "real" science activities that reinforced their conceptions of NOS. In Part II (spring 2005 semester), classroom observations were made to uncover how these teachers implemented inquiry-based activities emphasizing NOS understanding in their classrooms. Their conceptions of NOS were measured using the Views of the Nature of Science questionnaire. Results demonstrated that each teacher's conceptions of NOS shifted slightly during course the study, but, for one, this was not a permanent shift. Over the year, one teacher's pedagogical practices changed to include inquiry-based lessons using MTNOS; the other, although very amenable to using prepared inquiry-based lessons, did not change her pedagogical practices. Both reported similar challenges while facilitating NOS understanding. The most significant challenges included: (1) time management; (2) the perception that NOS was a content area, and (3) using an inquiry-based model in their classroom. This study describes a curricular and pedagogical model for lesson planning and implementation of inquiry-based activities that promotes NOS understandings in the classroom. It defines the challenges encountered while fostering these understandings, and suggests that NOS needs to be integrated across the educational life span of all students. ^