Exploring Learners’ Understandings of the Nature of Scientific Inquiry (NOSI): The Validation of a Research Instrument

By Washington T. Dudu and Elaosi Vhurumuku.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Commitments to inquiry and to laboratory investigation have become hallmarks of science education around the world. South Africa has also moved towards inquiry learning in secondary school science. This is attested to by its new science curriculum which advocates the promotion of both inquiry learning and teaching. This paper discusses the adaptation and validation of a research instrument, on understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry (NOSI) based on data collected from South African Grade 11 learners. The Learners’ Understanding of Science and Scientific Inquiry (LUSSI) instrument blends Likert-type items and related open-ended questions to assess learners’ understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry. The combined quantitative and qualitative methods enhance both the sensitivity and confidence with which the variety of learners’ NOSI views can be detected. Correlation analysis revealed that five of the six NOSI aspects correlate substantially with the total sum of all the constructs. The results also show that learners demonstrated the most confusions and misunderstandings in the laws versus theories aspect of the NOSI. A substantial number of learners (52%) demonstrated transitional views that were a combination of both naïve and informed understandings in the other five NOSI aspects. Evidence-based insight into the validation of the LUSSI is significant in that it invites further thought about how NOSI views can be measured with larger sample sizes. It also provides insight into the complexity and challenges involved in measuring and interpreting learner NOSI views.

Keywords: Nature of Scientific Inquiry, Inquiry, The NOS and NOSI, Inquiry Teaching, Inquiry Learning, Learners’ Understanding of Science and Scientific Inquiry

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp.67-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 845.491KB).

Washington T. Dudu

PhD Research Fellow, Marang Centre for Mathematics and Science Education, Wits University, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. My study investigates the interactions among learners’ understandings of the nature of scientific inquiry, teachers’ understandings of the nature of scientific inquiry, and teacher instructional practices. These interactions are studied within the context of teaching and learning of scientific investigations at Grade 11 level in five schools in and around Gauteng, South Africa. Learning science through inquiry is a dominant feature in international science education research, curriculum reform and instruction. For example, commitments to inquiry and to laboratory investigation have become hallmarks of science education around the world from the United States to the United kingdom and Australia (Grandy & Duschl, 2007). South Africa has also moved towards inquiry learning in secondary school science. This is attested to by its new science curriculum (Department of Education), which advocates the promotion of both inquiry learning and teaching. The South African curriculum and instruction context is particularly interesting because South Africa is in the process of implementing a new science curriculum (Department of Development, 2005). The new National Curriculum Statement seeks to develop learners’ understanding of NOSI. What then exactly happens in South African classrooms with regards to implementation of the new curriculum and learners’ understandings of NOSI? This is an interesting research issue.

Prof. Elaosi Vhurumuku

Lecturer, Mathematics and Science Education, Wits University, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Dr. Elaosi Vhurumuku is an experienced science educator, researcher and lecturer. He teaches chemistry, science education pedagogics and the the nature of science. Currently he is a lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Witwaterand, School of Science and Mathematics Education. He is currently conducting research on the translation of teacher epistemologies into instructional practices and the use of laboratory work to teach students about the nature of science at the secondary school level.

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