The influence of the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method in chemistry laboratories on high school students’ conceptions about the nature of science

Guluzar Eymur
Department of Child Care and Youth Services, Giresun University, Giresun, Turkey. E-mail: guluzar.eymur@giresun.edu.tr

Received 23rd May 2018 , Accepted 16th July 2018

First published on 17th July 2018


The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method compared with an implicit inquiry method on eleventh-grade students’ conceptions of NOS. The study used a pre-/post-test control group design to investigate the influence of the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method on eleventh grade students’ understanding of NOS. The qualitative method was used to identify the students’ views of NOS. The study involved 45 students (grade 11) enrolled in a chemistry course at a public Anatolian high school in the northeast of Turkey. The explicit group included 24 students (10 girls and 14 boys) and the implicit group included 21 students (12 girls and 9 boys) with their ages ranging from 17 to 18 years. Both groups were instructed for two 45 minute sessions per week over the course of 9 weeks. However, the explicit group participated in laboratory activities designed by the ADI method with explicit NOS instruction, whereas the implicit group was taught by a structured inquiry (SI) instructional model. Students were interviewed using the VNOS-B interview schedule to evaluate the students’ understanding of NOS. In data analysis, we coded views as an informed view that had the accepted views, a transitional view that had partially accepted views or a naïve view that had unaccepted views of the seven characteristics of NOS based on the literature. The results of the study showed significant differences between the pre- to post-test scores for the explicit group in terms of NOS views. However, the post-instruction views of the implicit group were not different from their previous NOS views. We believe that the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the ADI method has a noticeable potential in order to improve high school students’ views about NOS.


Introduction

Over the past few decades, science educators’ highest aim has been to educate students to create a scientifically literate citizenry. The definition of scientific literacy is made differently. The first time, it was defined in 2009 as “an individual's scientific knowledge and use of that knowledge to identify questions, to acquire new knowledge, to explain scientific phenomena, and to draw evidence-based conclusions about science related issues” (Schleicher et al., 2009). Then, its definition was changed by PISA in 2015 as “the ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science as a reflective citizen” (OECD, 2015). They presented some requirements for students to become scientifically literate such as explaining events scientifically, evaluating and designing scientific enquiry and interpreting data and evidence scientifically (OECD, 2015). A scientifically literate person should know what counts as science (Kyle, 1995; Lee, 1997; Hurd, 1998; DeBoer, 2000) or should have the ability to use scientific knowledge in problem solving (NRC, 1996) or should understand science and its applications (Hurd, 1998; DeBoer, 2000). Scientific literacy also involves learning of aspects of the nature of science (Holbrook and Rannikmäe, 2009). Understanding NOS is vital to ‘help students to improve their general understanding of science’ (National Research Council, 1996, p. 200). Students having inadequate views about NOS think, “science is a list of facts to memorize” (Akerson et al., 2006, p. 194). NOS includes some following aspects such as (a) scientific knowledge is tentative (subject to change); (b) empirically-based (based on and/or derived from observations of the natural world); (c) subjective (theory-laden); (d) partly based on human inference, imagination and creativity; (e) socially and culturally embedded; (f) the distinction between theory and law; and (g) the distinction between observation and inference (McComas, 1998; Lederman et al., 2002). Lederman (2007) presented that learning of NOS as a part of scientific literacy is very significant for moral, cultural and scientific learning aspects of life. Thus, increasing students’ understanding of the nature of science is critical if our goal is to advance scientific literacy in science education. Many nations have issued reports on the Nature of Science (NOS) in their science curricula to emphasize the importance of NOS (AAAS, 1990; Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC) Pan–Canadian Science Project, 1997; Curriculum Council (Western Australia, 1998)). Although there are many studies in science education and many reform documents that emphasize the importance of NOS as a component of scientific literacy, it is clear that changing students’ NOS views is a difficult task in science education (Duschl, 1990). Researchers have investigated diverse NOS instructional approaches to address changing students’ NOS views (Abd-El-Khalick et al., 1998; Abd-El-Khalick and Akerson, 2009; Donnelly and Argyle, 2011). In particular, many researchers have reported important findings regarding explicit NOS instructional approaches in science education (Abd-El-Khalick and Lederman, 2000a, 2000b; Hanuscin et al., 2006). Abd-El-Khalick and Lederman (2000a, 2000b) reported that an explicit NOS instructional approach was more effective than other approaches. Many other researches reached similar conclusions (Akerson and Hanuscin, 2007; Hanuscin et al., 2006; Khishfe, 2008). On the other hand, some researchers found that using an explicit NOS instructional approach did not develop NOS views for all students or had limited success (Leach et al., 2003; Abd-El-Khalick and Akerson, 2004; Morrison et al., 2009).

With the increasing popularity of argumentation research in science education, it has been suggested that engaging students in argumentation may help students improve their understanding of NOS (Ogunniyi, 2006; McDonald, 2010, Kutluca and Aydın, 2017), because argumentation helps students to achieve many components of scientific literacy such as developing skills of critical thinking (Kuhn, 1993) or understanding the basic aspects of practice of science (Driver et al., 2000; Duschl, 2008). Some studies reported that students who engage in argumentation have a higher level of scientific literacy, which results in improved NOS views for students (Ryu and Sandoval, 2012). Duschl (2008) stated that argumentation includes the epistemological and conceptual aspects of science learning by combining these aspects of what it means “do science” to support profound understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge and practices. There are many studies describing the influence of argumentation on NOS views (Bell and Linn, 2000; Yerrick, 2000; Ogunniyi, 2006; McDonald, 2010; Kutluca and Aydın, 2017). The results of these studies support the idea that engaging students in practices of argumentation may lead to the development of their views on some NOS aspects.

Although studies have shown the effectiveness of argumentation on NOS views, investigation of the effects of the Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) method and NOS instruction on NOS views is lacking in science education (Bell and Linn, 2000, Yerrick, 2000, Ogunniyi, 2006; McDonald, 2010, Kutluca and Aydın, 2017). The ADI method including both argumentation and inquiry steps may also allow students to improve their views on the aspects of NOS, because the ADI method enables students to improve important habits of mind and critical thinking skills by focusing on the role that scientific argumentation plays in the development and confirmation of scientific knowledge (Toulmin, 1958; Driver et al., 2000; Duschl and Osborne, 2002; Sampson and Clark, 2006; Walker et al., 2012). Thus, the present study tried to investigate the effects of combination of the ADI method and NOS instruction on students’ views on some aspects of NOS.

Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI)

ADI is a laboratory instructional model that includes eight steps. These eight interrelated steps and their purposes are provided in Table 1 (Sampson and Walker, 2012).
Table 1 The steps of the ADI instructional model and the purpose of each step
Step Purpose
Identification of task and the research question Attract students’ attention
Activate students’ previous knowledge
Develop a method; collect and analyze data Give students a chance to design and conduct an investigation
Provide an opportunity to students to decide what type of data they need and how they can collect the data
Generation of a tentative argument Give an opportunity to students to develop a tentative argument that includes a claim, evidence, and the justification of the evidence
Argumentation session Provide students an opportunity to discuss and share their ideas
Give students a chance to get feedback about their arguments
Open and reflective discussion Provide students an opportunity to share the knowledge and experiences that they have gained from sharing with their friends in other groups
Write an investigation report Provide students an opportunity to learn how to craft a written argument
Double-blind group peer review Give students a chance to understand a high-quality investigation report
Provide an opportunity to students to get feedback from their peers
Revise investigation reports Make students revise and improve their writing


The ADI method is grounded in the social constructivist theory of learning, which suggests that learning involves social and personal processes. The personal process includes individual construction of knowledge and understanding, whereas the social process depends on supportive and educative interactions with people. This theoretical framework provides two important implications for instructional design. One is that students must engage in authentic scientific practices to learn from their experiences. The other is that the scientific practices should lead to students’ acquisition of scientific knowledge and norms. Students develop skill in scientific argumentation and achieve literacy when they participate in more authentic and educative laboratory activities.

There are many studies related with the ADI instructional model. Some of them are related to the effectiveness of the ADI model on scientific writing and argumentation skills (Sampson and Walker, 2012; Sampson et al., 2013; Walker and Sampson, 2013). Some research provided evidence that ADI can develop learners’ scientific literacy in biology and chemistry classes (Walker et al., 2012; Strimaitis et al., 2017). Walker et al. (2012) found that ADI improved students’ attitudes towards science especially for female students (Walker et al., 2012). Apart from this study, Walker et al. (2016) also showed that when students were engaged in the ADI instructional model, they could explain a scientific phenomenon or solve a problem by using core ideas and scientific practices (Walker et al., 2016). Also, ADI helped students increase their conceptual understanding and presentation skills (Çetin and Eymur, 2017; Çetin et al., 2018). Based on the literature, it seems clear that ADI can result in improvements in students’ scientific literacy by increasing students’ critical thinking and argumentation skills.

ADI and NOS

Although studies have focused on the influence of argumentation on NOS, no study has addressed the effects of ADI and NOS together (Bell and Linn, 2000; Yerrick, 2000; Ogunniyi, 2006; McDonald, 2010; Kutluca and Aydın, 2017). With regard to the influence of argumentation on NOS views, it can be said that integrating explicit NOS and argumentation instruction in a science content course results in improvements in learners’ NOS views. In light of the literature, we think that explicit NOS instruction embedded in ADI may also lead to the development of learners’ NOS views. In the present study, the explicit NOS instruction was taught in chemistry laboratory activities designed by the ADI method. Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick (2002) investigated the influence of explicit NOS instruction in the context of inquiry-oriented activities on the NOS views of sixth-grade students. The authors concluded that when the NOS aspects were integrated and taught within the context of content-related inquiry activities, students’ views on NOS could likely be improved.

Instructional views for teaching NOS

In the last four decades, the three main teaching approaches for the nature of science have included historic, implicit, and explicit strategies (Bell et al., 2011). In historic approaches, students engage with circumstances from the history of science in order to notice various aspects of the nature of science. The implicit approach highlights an assumption that engaging students in authentic scientific investigations will improve their understanding of the nature of science. The explicit approach aims to get students to pay attention to the desirable aspects of the nature of science through discussion and questioning in the context of activities. Many studies showed that an explicit teaching approach was more effective (Abd-El-Khalick and Lederman, 2000a, 2000b; Akerson et al., 2000; Schwartz et al., 2004; Matkins and Bell, 2007; Morrison et al., 2009; Bell et al., 2011). Bell et al. (2011) investigated the influences of contextual and explicit instructions on pre-service elementary teachers’ understandings of the nature of science. Pre-service teachers who participated in explicit instructions about the nature of science made statistically significant improvements. Schwartz et al. (2004) conducted a study with 21 in-service secondary science teachers who attended a full-immersion authentic scientific research program. They found that the program effected target changes in the teachers’ NOS views. Another study on the explicit nature of science instruction was done by Matkins and Bell (2007). They explored the changes in pre-service elementary teachers’ views of the nature of science after the teachers received the explicit nature of science instruction included in a lesson on the socioscientific issue of global climate change. The teachers’ views of the nature of science evolved significantly, and the teachers also used their enhanced understandings to evaluate socioscientific issues. In addition to the explicit nature of science instruction, embedding NOS aspects into science content knowledge is also significant for NOS understanding (Clough, 2006).

Context of the study

In Turkey, the science curriculum was redesigned to educate students as scientifically literate citizens in 2013 (MONE, 2013). Although the most recent reforms of the science curriculum include a focus on scientific literacy, there are no clear explanations of NOS and what students need to know about it (MONE, 2017). The new science curriculum also has not prioritized students’ understanding of NOS in science education.

Over the last few decades, many studies on NOS in science education have been conducted, especially with regard to the views of pre-service teachers in Turkey (Keskin and Aydın, 2016; Adak and Bakır, 2017; Yenice and Ceren Atmaca, 2017) and in-service teachers (Izgar and Dilmaç, 2008; Ayvacı and Nas, 2010; Akçay, 2011; Adak and Bakır, 2017). However, there have been few studies about NOS and high school students (Kılıc et al., 2005; Dogan and Abd-El-Khalick, 2008). Dogan and Abd-El-Khalick (2008) found that in a sample of 2087 tenth grade students, most had a naïve understanding of the hierarchical relationship between theories and laws. Kılıc et al. (2005) reported that students were not certain about scientific knowledge.

Aim of the study and research questions

The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method compared with an implicit inquiry method on eleventh-grade students’ conceptions of NOS. Thus, two research questions guided this investigation:

(1) Does the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method help eleventh graders improve their conceptions of NOS aspects?

(2) Is the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method more effective than an implicit inquiry method in developing eleventh graders’ conceptions of NOS aspects?

Method

The present study used a pre-/post-test control group design to investigate the influence of the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method on eleventh-grade students’ understanding of NOS. At the beginning of the semester, the all chemistry course sections were created at school, so the participants could not be assigned as the explicit and implicit groups. However, two formed chemistry course sections were randomly assigned as the explicit and implicit groups. Two section numbers were written on a paper and put into a box and then the explicit and implicit groups were selected by drawing. The participants were not so different inherently because all students could attend this school based on their national high school entrance exam points, which means they are at nearly the same academic level. The qualitative method was used to identify the students’ views of NOS. All ethical and official permissions were taken from the Ministry of National Education. The Ministry of National Education sent informative texts on a letterhead to the school that we had selected due to its convenient location. We met with the principal of the school when we arrived at the school and he introduced us to the chemistry teacher at the school. We negotiated with the chemistry teacher about all procedures of the study.

Participants

A high school education in Turkey includes four years (grades 9–12) in two main educational categories—general and vocational/technical. Also, these two categories of schools include several different types of schools. For example, general high schools include Anatolian, Science, or Social Science Schools. Each school has curricular components based on its type although the same core curriculum is used in all schools.

The study involved 45 students (grade 11) enrolled in a chemistry course at a public Anatolian high school in the northeast of Turkey. The explicit group included 24 students (10 girls and 14 boys), and the implicit group included 21 students (12 girls and 9 boys) with their ages ranging from 17 to 18 years. In Turkey, the students select a subject area after completing ninth grade in Anatolian high schools. All students had a focal area in the science subject based on their choices in the ninth grade. All students spoke Turkish, and their socio-economic statuses were close to each other because students generally select the nearest school to their homes. With regard to ethical considerations, all students were informed about the purpose of the study, procedures and voluntary participation. Also, students were told that their academic performances were not evaluated and they would not receive grade marks. After briefing about all procedures, students were requested to sign a voluntary informed consent form. The principal and the chemistry teacher at the school decided that there was no need to take permission from parents because of the voluntary status of the students.

Interventions

At the beginning of the intervention, two chemistry classes were selected: one of them was randomly assigned as an explicit group, and the other as an implicit group. Both groups were instructed by the researcher who is experienced in the ADI instructional model for two 45 minute sessions per week over the course of 9 weeks. Both groups were engaged in the same chemistry activities, which are described in Table 2. However, the explicit group participated in laboratory activities designed by the ADI method with the explicit NOS instruction, whereas the implicit group was taught by the structured inquiry (SI) instructional model.
Table 2 Descriptions of activities and related NOS concepts
Name of activity The guiding question Related NOS concepts
Chemical equilibrium Why do changes in temperature, reactant concentration, and product concentration affect the equilibrium point of a reaction? • The importance of imagination and creativity in science
• The nature and role of experiments
Identification of an unknown based on physical properties What type of solution is the unknown liquid? • The difference between observations and inferences
• The differences between data and evidence in science
Identification of reaction products What are the products of the chemical reactions? • The difference between observations and inferences
• The difference between laws and theories in science
Acid–base titration and neutralization reactions What is the concentration of acetic acid in each sample of vinegar? • The difference between observations and inferences
• The influence of society and culture on science
Density and the periodic table What are the densities of germanium and flerovium? • Methods used in scientific investigations
• Changes in scientific knowledge over time


Explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method. The researcher implemented the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the ADI method for the explicit group. The explicit group who participated in this intervention was involved in the five ADI activities based on Sampson et al. (2016) and the explicit nature of science instruction. The name of the activities, the guiding questions of the activities and the related NOS concepts are presented in Table 2. (detailed explanation is provided in Sampson et al. (2016)). The ADI activities started with assigning students to groups of four or five to work together. At the beginning of the activities, the researcher distributed a hand-out that included a guiding question for the investigation being conducted, related information about investigations, and materials that students required for investigations. Students were expected to design and perform investigations in order to answer the guiding question. First, students decided what type of data they needed and how they would collect it. After data collection, they determined how to interpret and analyse the available data. In order to answer the guiding question, the students made a tentative argument that included a claim. After they developed the claim and answered the guiding question, the students proceeded to improve evidence and provide justification for the evidence. Each group of students presented their claim, evidence and justification of the evidence by using a large pasteboard to the whole class. When the groups presented the large pasteboard that involved their claim, evidence, and justification of evidence, the whole class argumentation session started. In this argumentation session, the students presented their arguments by answering the guiding question and discussed their arguments with other groups’ arguments. Following this argumentation session of the ADI method, the researcher directed the explicit and reflective discussion that related the seven aspects of nature of science. For example, the identification of an unknown based on an activity on physical properties was well aligned with two significant NOS concepts such as the difference between observations and inferences and the difference between data and evidence in science. After students presented their observations and inferences in the argumentation session, the researcher led the explicit and reflective discussion about how the activities showed the important aspects of the nature of science involving the distinction between observation and inference and also data and evidence in science. In this activity, one physical or chemical characteristic was not enough to provide evidence to support a claim, so the students needed to measure other physical or chemical properties in order to develop further evidence. For instance, the students were asked, “Can you state the identity of the unknown substance with only this data or do you need more data to provide evidence?” The following discussion focused on the differences between data and evidence. Also, the NOS aspect about the difference between observation and inference was emphasized in this activity. The researcher asked, “Can you all say the same thing about the identity of the unknown substance based on your observations?” The students brought up ideas such as: “We think differently even in the same group”; “We all make different inferences”. The discussion that followed focused on the differences between observation and inference. Many students recognized that “knowing and seeing are different”. Subsequently, the students argued, “Observations are different than inferences and although they are related, inferences are a way of knowing while observations are directly accessible”. In addition, it should be made clear that the researcher guided explicit NOS discussions. The researcher engaged the students in a discussion by immediate responses and by asking questions.

After the explicit and reflective discussion, investigation reports that included a written scientific argument answering the guiding question were expected from students individually. The students’ investigation reports were distributed to the students of other groups to check and revise based on a peer-review form that involved four criteria namely the goals, the investigation, the argument and the writing and space to give feedback for writers. The students used this form to evaluate the quality of investigation reports. After getting feedback from their peers, the students revised their investigation reports based on comments.

Implicit nature of science instruction. This implicit group was also engaged in the same five activities (Chemical Equilibrium, Identification of an Unknown Based on Physical Properties, Identification of Reaction Products, Acid–Base Titration and Neutralization Reactions, and Density and the Periodic Table), but in a structured inquiry model. In the structured inquiry model, the instructor decides the starting point, questions and methods of investigation (Banchi and Bell, 2008; Walker et al., 2016). Students have a chance to engage in scientific practices by collecting data and drawing conclusions from these data. However, they don’t have any opportunities to develop arguments or critique ideas about the investigation.

At the beginning of the instruction, the students were assigned to groups of four to five. Then the researcher distributed a hand-out that included background information, a research question, and the procedure of the experiment and the required materials for the investigation. The students started to follow the procedure of the experiment and tried to answer the research question. After finishing the procedure, the researcher asked the students to present their results of the investigation and write an investigation report including the name of the experiment, the purpose of the experiment, the answer to the research question and the results of the investigation in a group. Finally, the researcher summarized the results of the investigation and answered the research question.

Data source

Semi-structured interviews. Students were interviewed using the VNOS-B interview schedule to evaluate the students’ understanding of NOS in Table 3 (Lederman et al., 2002). I conducted semi-structured interviews by using the VNOS-B during the pre-intervention and post-intervention stages of the study. The VNOS-B was translated by the researcher into Turkish. One science educator and one linguist reviewed and checked the translated instrument. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed.
Table 3 Nature of science questionnaire (VNOS-B)
(1) After scientists have developed a theory (e.g. atomic theory), does the theory ever change? If you believe that theories do change, explain why we bother to teach scientific theories. Defend your answer with examples.
(2) What does an atom look like? How certain are scientists about the structure of the atom? What specific evidence do you think scientists used to determine what an atom looks like?
(3) Is there a difference between a scientific theory and a scientific law? Give an example to illustrate your answer.
(4) How are science and art similar? How are they different?
(5) Scientists perform experiments/investigations when trying to solve problems. Other than the planning and design of these experiments/investigations, do scientists use their creativity and imagination during and after data collection? Please explain your answer and provide examples if appropriate.
(6) Is there a difference between scientific knowledge and opinion? Give an example to illustrate your answer.
(7) Some astronomers believe that the universe is expanding while others believe that it is shrinking; still others believe that the universe is in a static state without any expansion or shrinkage. How are these different conclusions possible if all of these scientists are looking at the same experiments and data?


Data analysis

The data analyzing stage included developing a separate NOS profile for each student based on their interview data as responded in the pre- and post-VNOS-B interview schedule. Some previous studies that conducted the VNOS interview schedule coded participants’ responses to the questionnaire as an informed view, a transitional view or a naïve view (Akerson et al., 2000; Lederman et al., 2002; Akerson and Donnelly, 2008). In light of the literature, we also coded participants’ responses as an informed view that had the accepted views, a transitional view that had partially accepted views or a naïve view that had unaccepted views of the seven characteristics of NOS (Table 4). Their responses were in Turkish, but when their responses were presented in the table, they were translated into English by the researcher. These translations were also checked by another science educator. A science educator who was experienced in NOS research evaluated the reliability of the coding scheme and also coded the interview data sample based on the criteria given in Table 4. After negotiation of the developed codes, consensus about the seven aspects of NOS was reached at a rate of 95%. The present study investigated the seven broad NOS aspects such as subjectivity, tentativeness, social and cultural, theories and law, observation and interference, empirical, and creative and imaginative. Participants’ responses were coded under these seven NOS aspects for pre- and post-intervention stages and then a comparison of these stages was done to evaluate the improvement of their NOS views after the intervention.
Table 4 NOS aspects and definitions that were used to evaluate students’ view of NOS
NOS Aspects Definitions
The definitions present the informed view of the seven aspects of NOS (accepted). A student's response that included missing parts of the definition was coded as a transitional view (partially accepted). A student's response that is incoherent with any part of the description was coded as the naïve view (unaccepted).
(1) Empirical NOS Scientific knowledge is based on natural phenomena, evidence, data and observation. However, data and observations are not the sole source of evidence and not able to prove scientific claims and theories. Also, scientific knowledge is affected by scientists’ personal, social and cultural influences
(2) Nature of scientific theories Theories change due to new technologies and new research as well as new insights of available data, and social and cultural influences. Theories play a role in guiding scientific inquiry and providing future investigations
(3) Imagination and creativity Scientific knowledge includes scientists’ creativity and imagination in the whole scientific process from generating research questions to the development of inferences from the data
(4) Subjectivity Scientific knowledge is subjective. Development of the inferences by the scientists could vary according to their backgrounds, cultures, trainings, worldviews, religions or personal experiences in the improvement of scientific knowledge
(5) Observation and inference Scientific knowledge involves not only observations but also inferences. Observations are directly reachable for natural phenomena by senses. By contrast, inferences are developed by scientists especially in unobservable phenomena like the structure of the atom
(6) Theories and laws Scientific knowledge is tentative. Theories and laws are not absolute and certain. Scientific theories and laws are different but equal valid forms of scientific knowledge
(7) Social and cultural Scientific knowledge is affected by scientists’ social and cultural factors. Scientists’ inferences that are shaped by their social and cultural backgrounds play an important role in the development of scientific knowledge


Results

The results of the study showed that the post-instruction NOS views of the explicit group were different from their pre-instruction views. However, the post-instruction views of the implicit group were not different from their pre-NOS views. Table 5 presents the summary of pre- to post-instruction results. The following sections presented a summary of the pre- and post-instruction views of the participants.
Table 5 Percentage of participants’ views about the NOS aspects such as naïve, transitional and informed in the pre- and post-interviews
NOS aspects Explicit group Implicit group
Naïve Transitional Informed Naïve Transitional Informed
Empirically based
Pre% 96 4 0 90 10 0
Post% 17 42 41 86 14 0
 
Nature of scientific theories
Pre% 4 96 0 5 95 0
Post% 0 62 38 5 95 0
 
Imagination and creativity
Pre% 88 8 4 81 14 5
Post% 13 33 54 81 14 5
 
Subjectivity
Pre% 29 71 0 24 76 0
Post% 17 42 41 24 76 0
 
Observation and inference
Pre% 96 4 0 95 5 0
Post% 17 45 38 90 10 0
 
Theories and laws
Pre% 96 4 0 95 5 0
Post% 45 38 17 95 5 0
 
Social and cultural
Pre% 29 71 0 24 76 0
Post% 17 42 41 24 76 0


Participants’ pre-instruction views of NOS

The pre-instruction views of the explicit and implicit groups about NOS were not different from each other. About 5% of the participants (1 in the explicit group and 1 in the implicit group) explained the informed views of one aspect of NOS such as imagination and creativity (Table 5). About 95% of the participants (23 in the explicit group and 20 in the implicit group) showed naïve and transitional views of NOS in all aspects.

Empirical NOS

Nearly 93% (42) of all participants expressed naïve views of the empirical NOS. Their responses typically included scientific knowledge based on data and observation. Scientists used their data and observation to prove their theories. They explained the distinction between science and art that science depends on truth and data while art depends on aesthetics. They believed that the only source of evidence comes from data and observations.

Scientists develop scientific knowledge based on their experiments and observations. and they try to prove their theories with these data… Moreover, science depends on facts and truth (E10, pre-instruction).

Although there is no informed view, by comparison, 7% of the participants (3) had some more informed responses and were coded as transitional. They expressed the idea that the development of scientific knowledge can also include scientists’ creativity.

Scientists explain the world based on their data and experiments but sometimes they also include their creativity like artists (I15, pre-instruction).

Nature of scientific theories

A total of 96% (43) of the participants presented the transitional views of the nature of scientific theories. They believed that theories change because of memorization of knowledge. They expressed ideas that scientific theories change because new technological improvement takes place. They thought that technological improvement was the sole reason for theory change. However, they didn’t explain why neither theories change nor the role of theories in science (e.g. guiding scientific inquiry and providing future investigations). Thus, their views were coded as transitional but not informed.

Theories can be changed. For example, I can give an example about an atom. First, people accepted Dalton's model of the atom and then respectively Thomson's, Rutherford's and Bohr's models were accepted as true. That means changing of theories… Actually, when you ask, I think that there is no need for theories because they can change but they may not be changed. I don’t know, and I’m not sure about that (E8, pre-instruction).

In contrast, 4% (2) of the total participants had naïve views. They were confused about theories and expressed that theories couldn’t change.

Imagination and creativity

Most of the participants (88%, 21) in the explicit group and 81% (17) in the implicit group expressed naïve views about the imagination and creativity aspects of NOS. They believed that art depends on creativity and imagination, while science depends on data and observations. They believed that creativity and imagination in science cause subjectivity and science should be objective.

Art is an objective issue and depends on the artist's creativity and imagination. However, science should be objective and scientists do not include their creativity and imagination into their work. A big difference between art and science is that (E12, pre-instruction)

Meanwhile, 11% (5) of the total participants expressed transitional views about the imagination and creativity aspects of NOS. They expressed the ideas that the imagination and creativity in science can take place before the scientific method is applied. Scientists plan and determine the scientific methods based on their imagination and creativity at the beginning of investigations. They believed that scientists do not use their creativity and imagination during and after the investigations.

Scientists used their imagination and creativity at the beginning of investigations. Imagination and creativity are needed to start investigations. Everybody cannot be a scientist because of the lack of imagination and creativity… During and after the investigations, scientists use objective data and observations to make inferences, with no need for imagination and creativity (I13, pre-instruction).

Only 4% (2) of the participants elucidated informed views that imagination and creativity are parts of science. Scientists use their imagination and creativity in whole scientific processes from developing research questions to the interpretation of observed data and results.

Subjectivity

A great number of participants (73%, 33) expressed transitional views about the subjectivity aspects of NOS. They expressed the astronomical controversy because of scientists’ different cultures, backgrounds, knowledge, and even religion. By doing this, they expressed that scientists behave objectively against the nature of scientific knowledge. They had a negative sense about subjectivity and presented the idea that science is universal and objective truth everywhere.

These scientists can give different conclusions based on their culture, backgrounds or religion…But, science should be objective and universal (I20, pre-instruction).

By comparison, 27% (12) of the participants presented naïve views about the subjectivity aspect of NOS. They expressed ideas about astronomical controversy that these scientists engaged insufficient and deficient data about this issue, so they gave different interpretations. They also think that subjectivity should be avoided in science.

I think that these scientists use or deal with insufficient or deficient data. Otherwise, all scientists can make the same interpretations with the same data… there is no place for subjectivity in science. Science is absolute and objective (E5, pre-instruction).

Observation and inference

Nearly 96% (43) of the total participants expressed naïve views about distinction between observation and inferences. They believed that scientists are certain and sure about the structure of atoms. They expressed a belief that atomic models have been developed with direct observations and facts. They did not mention the role of inferences in science, even for unobservable tasks such as the structure of atoms.

I believed that scientists could see the structure of an atom by using electron microscopes today. Before this, scientists could not see the atom because of lack of technological opportunities. So, they were not sure about the structure of atoms. With the new technology, scientists can observe and see the atom (I13, pre-instruction).

Only 4% (2) of the participants had transitional views about the distinction between observation and inferences. They expressed an idea that scientists could not be sure and absolute about the structure of atoms. They believed that the structure of atoms might be changed based on improvement in technology. However, they did not elucidate the distinction between observation and inferences. Thus, they were coded as transitional but not informed.

Theories and laws

96% (43) of the total participants expressed a common misconception that theories become laws when they are proven through experiments and testing. They also expressed that laws never change. They had a misconception about a hierarchical relationship between laws and theories.

Theories become laws when proven with experiments. However, laws never change, they already are proven by repeated experiments. For example, Evolution is a theory because it is not proven, but Newton's laws are scientific laws and they are proven many times (E7, pre-instruction)

I think that laws never change but theories are tentative and if they were proven by scientists, they would be laws. For example, there is a modern atomic theory that is not proven so it is still theory… I cannot remember an example of a law now (I19, pre-instruction)

In total, only 4% (2) of the participants expressed transitional views about theories and law. They expressed a belief that theories and laws are tentative. However, they could not elucidate the distinction between theory and law and their roles.

I believe that both theories and laws are tentative and they can be changed… Actually, I do not know the differences between theory and law (E23, pre-instruction).

Social and cultural

73% (33) of the participants expressed transitional views about social and cultural influences on scientific knowledge. They expressed that social and cultural factors such as political views and religion affect scientific knowledge. However, they believed that these influences should be avoided in science because science is certain and universal.

I think that scientists’ cultures and especially religions affect their construction of scientific knowledge. For example, we are a Muslim community in Turkey and scientists who are Muslim and live in Turkey do not believe evolution theory. However, other western countries believe evolution theory and try to prove this. This means that science is affected by culture and religion, which should not be acceptable for science. Science is universal and should be the same everywhere (I17, pre-instruction).

The remaining 27% (12) of the participants expressed naïve views about social and cultural influences on scientific knowledge. They believed that science is absolute and universal so it is not affected by social and cultural factors.

Participants’ post-instructional views of NOS

The post-instructional views of the implicit group had differences in only two aspects of NOS: empirically based, and observation and inferences. Actually, these differences were not dramatic changes in views because they have developed their views from naïve to transitional but not informed. Table 3 shows that the percentage of transitional views increased from 10% to 14% while the percentage of naïve views decreased from 90% to 86% in empirically based aspects of NOS. Also, the percentage of transitional views increased from 5% to 10% while the percentage of naïve views decreased from 95% to 90% in observation and inference aspects of NOS.

These differences may be caused from the structured inquiry instruction. When participants’ questions were answered in the SI instruction, sometimes participants’ attention was directed toward by the distinction between observation and inferences.

Furthermore, the explicit group views were changed after intervention. The percentages of informed views of participants increased from 0% to 41%, 38%, 54%, 41%, 38%, 17% and 41% in all aspects of NOS. In addition to increased informed views, their naïve views also changed from naïve views to transitional views. The following part explains the changes in views after intervention in the explicit group.

Empirical NOS

The participants receiving explicit NOS instruction gained improvement in their views about the empirical nature of science. 42% (10) of the explicit group expressed informed ideas about the role of evidence and influences of scientists’ creative thought and inferences on scientific knowledge.

Scientific knowledge could be changed based on new evidence. For example, Thompson made many experiments and inferred what these particles could be. After this time, scientific knowledge changed with new evidence. They accepted a new atomic theory, namely Thompson atomic theory… Scientists can include their creativity and interpretations in their work. With this, science always improves (E18, post-instruction).

Meanwhile, 41% (10) of the explicit group participants still expressed transitional views about the empirical nature of science. They recognized the use of evidence in science and implied the scientific data and observations. However, they still believed that science only depends on evidence, observations and data. Scientists could not include their interpretations in science.

I think that scientific knowledge develops based on evidence, observations and data. When scientists found new things in one topic, the accepted scientific knowledge changed into new knowledge based on those findings… There is a difference between art and science. Art is mainly based on artists’ creativity and interpretations, while science is mainly based on evidence and observations, not scientists’ interpretations (E11, post-instruction).

Nature of scientific theories

38% (9) of the participants in the explicit group expressed informed views about the nature of theories after intervention. Nearly all participants already knew that theories can change. However, after explicit instruction they noticed the role of theories in science and theories also change with new interpretations of current data.

I believe that theories change… We learn theories because they give a framework for present knowledge and future experiments (E13, post-instruction).

I think that theories change with new evidence. When some scientists give new interpretations to existing evidence, theories may also change at that time (E23, post-instruction).

62% (13) of the participants still expressed transitional views about the nature of theories after intervention. Their views were not changed after instruction. They could not express the role of theories and why we learn the theories if they change.

Imagination and creativity

The participants in the explicit group got the highest improvement and percentage of informed views (54%, 13) in imagination and creativity aspects of the nature of science. They elucidated that creativity and imagination are necessarily important in science and art. They discarded prior ideas and they expressed a belief that scientists use their creativity and imagination in the whole scientific process.

I think that creativity and imagination are prerequisites for art and science… Scientists include their creativity and imagination into their work like artists (E19, post-instruction).

33% (8) of the participants expressed transitional views after explicit instruction in imagination and creativity aspects of the nature of science. They could not develop their views that scientists could use their creativity at the beginning of investigations and in deciding different ways of data collection. However, scientists should be objective unlike artists.

Subjectivity

A great number of participants (83%, 20) rejected the idea that science has to be objective after intervention. Of those, 41% (10) of the participants expressed informed views about the subjectivity of science. They elucidated that scientists explain the same observations and data based on their personal views, backgrounds or religions.

They (scientists) can reach different conclusions based on their different interpretations when they engage the same data and observations. Thus, they gave different explanations about the universe (E2, post-instruction).

However, 42% (10) of the participants expressed transitional views about the subjectivity of science. They expressed that scientists explain phenomena based on their different personal factors such as backgrounds, views or religions. But, they still think that it has a negative impact on science.

Observation and inferences

38% (9) of the participants of the explicit group expressed informed views about observation and inferences in science. They expressed that scientists use inferences to decide the structure of atoms because they couldn’t see an atom.

Scientists can’t be sure about the structure of atoms. Because, they have not had a chance to see an atom before. They decided the structure of atoms by inferring. The structure of atoms is still a theory because scientist used their observations and experiments to reach inferences but they are not certain (E5, post-instruction).

45% (11) of the participants still had transitional views about observation and inferences in science in the explicit group after intervention. They expressed that scientists couldn’t be certain about the structure of atoms. However, they could not express how scientists decided the structure of atoms and the distinction between observation and inferences in science.

Theories and laws

The lowest percentage of participants (17%, 4) in the explicit group expressed informed views about theories and laws after intervention. They expressed a belief that theories and laws are functionally different but accurate forms of scientific knowledge. They rejected the idea of comparing theory and law in terms of proof level.

I think that theories and laws are valid but have different functions in science. Theories are explanations of observations, but laws are generalization of events that are explained by a theory (E24, post-instruction).

Social and cultural

42% (10) of the participants in the explicit group expressed informed views about social and cultural influences in the construction of scientific knowledge after intervention. They explained that scientists could express phenomena based on their personal factors such as cultures, backgrounds, views or religions.

I believe that differences of interpretation about the universe are acceptable because scientists make explanations and interpretations according to their personal factors such as cultures, political views or religions (E11, post-instruction).

Discussion

This study suggests that the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the ADI method is effective at developing eleventh graders’ NOS conceptions. The ADI instructional model gives an opportunity for students to develop their argument that includes an explanation for research questions. By doing this, students need to develop their own methods to gather and analyse data, discuss and verify their ideas in the argumentation session, write investigation reports to represent their ideas with scientific writing and engage in peer review. It fosters students to not only reach the right answer during activities but also help them concentrate on what argument they can make, why they can do it or how they can verify it. All these processes can lead to improvement in important habits of mind by focusing on the role of scientific argumentation plays in the development and confirmation of scientific knowledge. It is also possible to say that the ADI model gives an opportunity for students to “do science” to provide a deep understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge and practices which also encourage and improve their NOS aspects.

The explicit group participants improved their views in terms of seven aspects of NOS. They expressed informed views with percentages of 41% for the empirical nature of science, 38% for the nature of theories, 54% for imagination and creativity, 41% for subjectivity, 38% for observation and inferences, 17% for theories and law, and 41% for social and cultural aspects, while in the beginning only 4% of the total students had an informed view in one aspect. By comparison, the implicit group that engaged in the SI method could not improve their views about the aspects of NOS.

Our results were consistent with previous studies encouraging the necessity of the explicit nature of science instruction (Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick, 2002; Schwartz and Lederman, 2002; Matkins and Bell, 2007; Mcdonald, 2010; Kutluca and Aydın, 2017). However, the need for explicit instruction of the nature of science is known, and the study showed that the ADI instructional model could integrate the explicit nature of science instruction properly and achieved the expected outcomes with the literature.

Although many different treatments such as socio-scientific discussions (Matkins and Bell, 2007) or argumentation (McDonald, 2010) with the explicit nature of science instruction were investigated, there is no study about the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method.

Some researchers presented an idea that the nature of science instruction should include contextualization, science content, inquiry activities and science process skills (Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick, 2002). Although both the explicit and implicit groups engaged in the same scientific activities including group work, contextualization, inquiry practices, science contents and process skills, the implicit group could not improve their views about NOS compared to the explicit group. It appears that the NOS instruction in the ADI method which is a combination of argumentation and inquiry is more effective than a sole inquiry-oriented method for the improvement of students’ views about the nature of science. This result was also consistent with the literature where some studies also reported that a sole inquiry-oriented method is not enough to teach the nature of science alone (Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick, 2002; Matkins and Bell, 2007).

The present study demonstrates that the percentage of students’ changes in views toward the informed views of each aspect of NOS varied from 17% to 54% from pre-interview to post-interview. The lowest changes in informed views were observed in the theory and law aspect of NOS. It was observed that students actually had much more information and knowledge in theory and law aspects than other aspects. However, their previous knowledge and information included many of the common misconceptions such as “theory becomes law when it is proven”. As reported in the literature, students’ misconceptions were robust and resistant to change; their previous knowledge and information blocked and hindered improving their NOS views (Novak, 1988; BouJaoude, 1991; Taber, 2001). This finding was also consistent with the literature (Schwartz et al., 2004; Mcdonald, 2010). Moreover, the highest improvement in informed views was obtained in the imagination and creativity aspects of NOS. At the end of the study, 54% of the students gave great importance to scientists’ imagination and creativity in constructing scientific knowledge. Actually, this finding was inconsistent with the study by Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick (2002). They presented that the creative and imaginative aspects of NOS were hard to change for the participants. Also, in spite of the explicit NOS instruction intervention, some students’ views of NOS were not changed. We believe that there is one main factor that was the duration of intervention. Our intervention continued for nine weeks and this time duration may not be enough to change all students’ views of NOS. As is known, many studies showed that changing students’ NOS views was a long and difficult process (Wandersee et al., 1994; Driver et al., 1996; Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick, 2002).

Moreover, the present study was consistent with other research studies that used explicit NOS instruction treatment in terms of the percentages of a post-intervention informed view in NOS aspects (Abd-El-Khalick and Lederman, 2000a, 2000b; Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick, 2002; Matkins and Bell, 2007; Cofre et al., 2014). The percentage of informed views changed from 38% to 54% for six aspects of NOS in the present study, which was nearly the same as other studies. However, the percentage of informed views for the theory and law aspect was the lowest with 17% due to higher grade students’ misconceptions in this aspect. Besides, the present study found a lower percentage (from 13 to 17) of naïve views after intervention in all aspects except the theory and law aspect compared to the studies by Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick (2002), Matkins and Bell (2007) and Abd-El-Khalick and Lederman (2000a, 2000b). Cofre et al. (2014) found lower naïve views and higher transitional views than the present study, but it should be kept in mind that their participants were in-service teachers while our participants were high school students.

Limitations

We should always bear in mind that all research studies have some limitations. The present study was conducted on a small number of participants and in a limited context. For this reason, further research is required for different grade levels and different contexts to provide generalizability and validity of the study. Also, the limited intervention time may be the cause of participants’ unchanged views about NOS. Thus, students’ views about NOS that require more time to change should be given much more time. Besides, there might be two main possible internal validity threats such as novelty effects and researcher's expectancy effects, which could reduce the generalizability of the study. To overcome expectancy effects, the researcher followed clear rules and procedures while conducting instructions in both groups. Also, novelty effects might be available for both groups because structured inquiry instruction was also new for the implicit group.

Implications and conclusions

Although further research is needed to provide generalizability of the study, we believe that the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the ADI method has a noticeable potential in order to improve high school students’ views about NOS, because ADI is a combination of argumentation and inquiry and helps students develop scientific habits of mind and critical thinking skills. Also, ADI provides an opportunity for students to “do science” to encourage a deep understanding of the nature of science and practices. In addition, the present study contributes to the science education field because it is the first study on both the ADI method and NOS instruction together in the literature.

It is also remarkable that ADI is just one laboratory instructional model that has the potential to improve students’ views of NOS with explicit NOS instruction. The other instructional models, such as Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) or Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE), could integrate with explicit NOS instruction to help students improve their views of NOS. We believe that science laboratory courses should be a place where students learn “doing” science and the nature of science knowledge rather than just a place to learn conceptual understanding. With this manner, science laboratory courses may play a vital role in creating scientifically literate students.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts to declare.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Giresun University under a grant [Grant Number EĞT-BAP-A-160317-56].

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