Title

Developing students' understanding of the nature of science through specially designed hands-on activities

Date of Award

8-1-2003

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Master of Education (M. Ed.)

Department

Institute for Educational Development, Karachi

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the ways in which students of class eight understand the nature of science (NOS) through specially designed hands-on activities. These activities, used materials that could be manipulated for the learning about the NOS. The distinction between these activities and others was that these activities explicitly focused on five aspects of the NOS: Science is tentative, scientific knowledge is empirically based, scientific knowledge is partly a product of creativity and imagination, there is distinction between observation and inference and science is socially and culturally embedded. I worked with four boys of mixed abilities from a private school of the evening shift (1 p.m. to 6 p.m.). I taught them for one hour outside their real classroom. The teaching was done twice a week for seven weeks using eight different and specially designed hands-on activities to teach about the aforementioned aspects of the NOS. I played a dual role that of a researcher as well as a teacher. I elicited students' views about NOS by semi-structured pre and post interviews. Data was collected through multimethods that were by field notes, audiotaping the teaching sessions, students' reflections and my own reflections. My major learnings from the study were from the specially designed hands-on activities, which helped me to develop students' creativity, pluralistic thinking, English language skills, and confidence, and enhanced their understanding of NOS to a certain extent. I observed a positive shift of students' attitude towards appreciating the nature of science. All the participants explicitly expressed the view that scientific knowledge is tentative and derived from observations. They also said that creativity and imagination played a key role in constructing their scientific knowledge. Alongside all these strengths, some crucial issues were also observed while designing and teaching the specially designed hands-on activities that demanded me to give special consideration if I wanted to use them in my context successfully. Some of those issues were: Time constraint in designing and teaching the activities, availability of supportive environment, and language issues.

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