Investigating the Nature of Science Understanding of Pre-Service Elementary Teachers in an Integrated Physical Science Course

As part of a scientific and technology-oriented society, the public is exposed to scientific knowledge on a daily basis. Scientists relay important information regarding issues such as the reliability of DNA evidence, global climate change, and the legality of drugs. Using this information, members of the public are expected to evaluate the evidence and arrive at a conclusion; actions closely determined by their views about science. However, many members of the public hold naïve views of science and scientific knowledge, confusing terms such as theory, law, and hypothesis. Many of these naïve views are also reflected in K-12 schools. Such a lack of understanding is problematic when attempting to bridge the gap between science and science within the context of society. For this reason, improving both teacher and student views about the nature of science has been an educational objective for more than fifty years. This mixed-methods research seeks to understand pre-service elementary (PSEE) teacher’s views of the nature of science throughout an interdisciplinary Physical Science course. Statistical analyses reveal no significant difference between instructional lecture approaches. Further investigation revealed that low prior knowledge students made statistically significant gains across cohorts while students with high prior knowledge demonstrated a decrease in understanding. Qualitative analysis suggests that student views related to science increased overall, as did their willingness to teach science.