Learning Aspects of the Nature of Science at an Interactive Science Centre
Carpendale, J. A. (2012). Learning Aspects of the Nature of Science at an Interactive Science Centre (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/7030
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/7030
The nature of science (NoS), while seen as an important part of science education, is also acknowledged as difficult to teach. Researchers have claimed that interactive science centres and the exhibits they contain have the potential to teach students about the NoS. This project investigated what aspects of the NoS are represented within the exhibits of an interactive science centre and what aspects of the NoS students may learn from a visit to the centre. This project involved a class of year five and six students on a visit to Exscite, a local interactive science centre. The research was conducted within the interpretive paradigm of educational research and data was collected using a variety of qualitative methods. The class of students were split into six focus groups, and data was collected using a three phase approach: pre-visit interviews; an observational visit to Exscite; and post-visit interviews. During the two interview rounds, students answered a variety of questions about their experiences in science and their understanding about aspects of the NoS. During the observational visit general notes were taken about the whole class, and two focus groups were given additional discussion questions to answer as they interacted with the exhibits. All data were thematically analysed. The findings indicate that, while interactive science centres provide a novel and entertaining environment for learning about science, NoS aspects were often not immediately clear. Closer examination of the exhibits suggests that understanding of some aspects of the NoS could be developed thought engagement with the exhibits and two of the Exscite exhibits, considered to have strong NoS links, were focused on in this research. Prior to the visit, students had poorly developed understandings of some aspects of the NoS, such as the development of scientific knowledge and the use of models in science. During the visit students were excited about this new environment and immediately explored everything that moved, rather than reading the information that accompanied exhibits. After visiting Exscite, students provided more detailed responses, including scientific ideas, which indicated that they had learnt new information about the NoS about how and why science is done and the use of models in science. Students, however, were still unable to make the links between the models they had engaged with and what the models represented. The students in the two treatment groups had a better understanding of what they had done at the centre, but like their peers, were still unable to make links to the aspects of NoS associated with models. This thesis concludes that while some aspects of the NoS may not be clear within exhibits at an interactive science centre, careful analysis did provide some NoS links and with facilitation, an interactive science centre can increase the students’ awareness and understanding about the NoS.
University of Waikato
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