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'What We Think We Can Safely Say…': primary teachers' views of the nature of science

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Since science became part of the core curriculum in England and Wales for children aged five upwards, primary school teachers have moved from widespread diffidence to positions of some confidence and success in teaching it. In the process, their views of the nature of science and the purposes of teaching it can be expected to have developed. The importance of the teacher in relation to the quality of students' learning, and to the ideas about and orientations towards a subject that students develop, is well documented. There are good reasons to believe that teachers' views of the nature of science form part of a 'hidden curriculum' in their science teaching: thus, an understanding of them is necessary to an understanding of learners' experiences of science teaching. The research reported explored such views through both case study and survey methodologies. The case studies showed the depth and subtlety of some teachers' views of science. The survey data yielded six factors, explaining 82% of the variance in respondents' views of science, provisionally named scientism, naive empiricism, 'new-age-ism', constructivism, pragmatism and scepticism. The views of science expressed by teachers in interview, and those inferred from and made explicit in their practice, were in most cases consistent with their positions on these factors. These enable interesting insights into the representations of science communicated by primary teachers in their science teaching, which could inform curriculum development in relation to the nature of science, at both primary and secondary levels.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-10-01

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