Impact of Explicit Teaching of the Nature of Science on Young Children

By Sufian Forawi.

Published by The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning

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This study is designed to examine the concepts of nature of science (NOS) that K-7th grade students bring into the classroom. A report by the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science states that “…preschool children have some potent cognitive competencies and related learning potentials. These include early arithmetic skills, implicit understanding of cause and effect sequences, pre-literacy ‘writing,’ and some science knowledge.” This study investigated three questions related to children science learning potentials: (1) Are the concepts of NOS part of the young students’ science knowledge that they bring to the classroom? (2) What conceptions of NOS do young students hold, and (3) Does explicit teaching of NOS improve young students’ conceptions of NOS? Children’s conceptions of NOS were measured with the Early Nature of Science Instrument (ENSI), a newly developed and piloted instrument that is suitable for young students. The data were analyzed using pair t-test statistical measure. The main findings were: (a) young students possessed some knowledge of NOS prior to entering the classroom, (b) children’s conceptions of NOS were improved from pre- to post-test administration (t = 5.217 p ˂ .000), (c) young students' conceptions seemed to gradually change as the science summer camp’s activities progressed, and (d) children as young as six years old were capable of learning NOS after explicitly being taught its elements. These findings suggest that today’s young children bring to the classroom understandings of the NOS that may serve as the foundation for more effective science education curricula and practices.

Keywords: Explicit Nature of Science, NOS Early Childhood Instrument, Science Summer Camp, Early Childhood

The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp.41-49. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1018.035KB).

Prof. Sufian Forawi

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, The British University in Dubai, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dr. Sufian A. Forawi is currently a senior lecturer of science education in the Faculty of Education at the British University in Dubai. Dr. Sufian obtained a bachelor degree in biology from the University of Alexandria, Egypt, a master’s degree in education from Omdurman Islamic University, Sudan, and an Ed.D. in science education from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, USA in 1996. His area of expertise is in the nature of science, teacher education, science technology, & global education. He was recently awarded a Fulbright teaching exchange at the UAE University in 2007-2008. Dr. Sufian has 14 years of science teaching and coordination experience in higher education and 6 years of high school science teaching and administrative experience. He has been active with the state of Ohio assessment system in the USA for many years. He has been a member of several science education organizations such as the National Association of Research on Science Teaching (NARST), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA). He also presented at the prestigious Oxford Round Table, England, in 2006 and at the SLO International Conference in the Netherlands in 2001.