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Table of contents
1. Derivation and Implementation of a Model Teaching the Nature of Science Using Informal Science
Education Venues............................................................................................................................................

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Document 1 of 1

Derivation and Implementation of a Model Teaching the Nature of Science Using Informal Science
Education Venues
Author: Spector, Barbara S; Burkett, Ruth; Leard, Cyndy
ProQuest document link
Abstract: This paper introduces a model for using informal science education venues as contexts within which to
teach the nature of science. The model was initially developed to enable university education students to teach
science in elementary schools so as to be consistent with National Science Education Standards (NSES) (1996)
and A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas (2011). The
model has since been used in other university courses and professional development workshops for
elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. Learners experience the Nature of Science (NOS)
firsthand and develop their own understandings of NOS through interaction with exhibits and museum patrons.
During experiential learning opportunities (Kolb, 1984), learners use the strategy of "using yourself as a learning
laboratory" (Burkett, Leard, &Spector, 2003, p. 3) to gather data on how they learn science content information,
experience NOS, and construct strategies for teaching science. Through reflection, face-to-face debriefings, and
online discussion, learners incorporate experiences into their cognitive structures thereby constructing their own
conceptions of NOS consistent with understandings commonly used in the science education enterprise
(Lederman, 2003; McComas, Clough, &Almazroa, 1998). Examples are given of learners' statements indicating
understanding of the NOS constructed during their work in the museum. The model for science education
leaders' use of informal settings with educators learning about NOS is included. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]
Full text: Headnote
Abstract
This paper introduces a model for using informal science education venues as contexts within which to teach
the nature of science. The model was initially developed to enable university education students to teach
science in elementary schools so as to be consistent with National Science Education Standards (NSES) (1996)
and A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas (2011). The
model has since been used in other university courses and professional development workshops for
elementary, middle school, and high school teachers.
Learners experience the Nature of Science (NOS) firsthand and develop their own understandings of NOS
through interaction with exhibits and museum patrons. During experiential learning opportunities (Kolb, 1984),
learners use the strategy of "using yourself as a learning laboratory" (Burkett, Leard, &Spector, 2003, p. 3) to
gather data on how they learn science content information, experience NOS, and construct strategies for
teaching science. Through reflection, face-to-face debriefings, and online discussion, learners incorporate
experiences into their cognitive structures thereby constructing their own conceptions of NOS consistent with
understandings commonly used in the science education enterprise (Lederman, 2003; McComas, Clough,
&Almazroa, 1998). Examples are given of learners' statements indicating understanding of the NOS constructed
during their work in the museum. The model for science education leaders' use of informal settings with
educators learning about NOS is included.
Keywords: nature of science, inquiry, informal science education, education, teacher education
Introduction
The introduction of National Science Education Standards (NSES) in 1996 focused science education leaders'
attention on ways to enable teachers to construct understanding of the nature of science (NOS) for themselves
and for students. The need for attention to NOS was reiterated in 2011 by the National Research Council's
document, A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas. A wide
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range of settings and techniques have been proposed as sites and means by which individuals can learn
something of NOS. The model described herein illustrates a way in which museums and similar informal
science education venues, also referred to as "free-choice" learning environments, can assist in communicating
aspects of the NOS. Informal settings that may be used for this model include natural physical sites (e.g.,
forests, beaches), human-enhanced (e.g., nature centers, preserves), or human-made (e.g., fishing wharfs,
industrial settings, or theme parks). Venues to be considered may also be places in the community specifically
designed for education of the pubhe, including museums, aquaria, zoos, libraries, botanical gardens, and
natural areas set aside as outdoor classrooms.
The impetus for moving university courses for prospective science teachers to informal science education
venues was the students' observed resistance to learning science through inquiry procedures consistent with
the culture of science (including NOS) while they were in a university classroom setting. Becoming disposed to,
and able to accommodate to, the culture of science (including NOS) were the primary measures of success for
use of this alternative venue.
We provide a theoretical base for the role of informal education settings in science teacher education and their
potential to contribute to teachers' understandings of NOS. A description of a methods course for teaching
science in elementary schools conducted in an informal setting, the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), is
shared. Procedures used in the museum setting discussed here are the basis for a model readily adapted to
other informal settings. The model has been successfully used to develop other methods courses; science,
technology, and society interaction (STS) courses; and professional development workshops for secondary
teachers. All these learning opportunities embrace the current focus on science, technology, engineering and
mathematics- STEM.
NOS as used for a conceptual framework here includes "how learners understand what science is, how it
works, how scientists operate, and how the scientific enterprise influences and is influenced by society"
(McComas et al., 1998, p. 4). Objectives for teaching NOS synthesized from the work of McComas (1998),
Lederman (2003), and Osborne, Collins, and Ratcliffe (2003), follow: scientific knowledge is tentative; scientific
knowledge is empirical, or based on theory laden observations, experimental evidence, rational arguments and
skepticism; there are many ways to do science (there is no one scientific method); science is an attempt to
explain natural phenomena; theories and laws have different relationships and roles; science is embedded in
culture, i.e. the culture influences science, science is part of social and cultural traditions, and science affects
and is affected by the social and historical milieu; science requires the clear and open public reporting of new
knowledge, accurate record keeping, peer review, and ability to replicate findings; creativity has an important
role in science; science and technology impact each other; and the evolutionary and revolutionary nature of
science is revealed in its history.
Science education sources, e.g. the U.S. National Science Education Standards (1996), note that scientists
historically have operated within ethical traditions that reflect NOS, including using empirical standards,
respecting the rules of evidence, making work public, being open to criticism, valuing peer review, and desiring
knowledge. Science is, therefore, "a way of knowing" about the natural world. This "way of knowing" requires
that scientists use habits of mind, including values and attitudes (curiosity, honesty, openness to new ideas, and
informed skepticism), computation and estimation, manipulation and observation, communication skills and
critical response skills (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993). These are learned
patterns of thinking, behaving and communicating. Collectively these patterns form what anthropologists call a
culture, the culture of science, a distinguishable part of the general culture of society. The label, culture of
science, is used herein and encompasses the nature of science elements identified above.
Theoretical Base
Science as a way of knowing and thinking and science as it is taught and learned in schools are not congruent
(Riedinger, Marbach-Ad, Randy McGinnis, Hestness, &Pease, 2010). Yager reported, "Most science courses in
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school are devoid of any of the features that characterize real science" (2008, p. xiii). One way to bring the two
domains together is through first hand experiential learning (Kolb, 1984) based on the work of Dewey (1938).
Because science is a culture that is often the antithesis of learners' own culture (Table 1), the learners must
experience it first hand. Features of this antithetical culture were derived from an emergent design qualitative
study of five successive preservice elementary science methods classes modeling inquiry. Data from the five
classes were treated as a single database with five different analytical frameworks used to compare the
students' culture to the culture of science (Spector &Strong, 2001). Table 1 provides excerpts from that study.
One way to explain why informal settings are productive for preservice and inservice teachers to learn NOS is to
combine Kolb' s experiential learning theory with an anthropological perspective (Cobern &Aikenhead, 1998;
Duit &Treagust, 1998; Maddock, 1981) and the psychological theory related to context and state dependent
learning (Bower, Monteiro, &Gilligan, 1976; Chance, 1994; Grilly, 1989; McGeoch, 1932). Learning a culture
occurs in a context, an environment of a given pattern of physical and social stimuli. These stimuli become cues
that elicit the corresponding culture, including expectations for acceptable behaviors in the culture. Changing
the cues makes it difficult to elicit the culture, thereby providing an opportunity to develop a new culture with
new expectations for acceptable behaviors. Subsequently, Spector and Strong (2001) generated grounded
theory indicating, "To the extent that we can change characteristics of the context in which traditional preservice
teachers learn science (and how to teach science), we should be able to influence their ability to accommodate
to the culture of science" (p. 16). Barnes and Spector (1999) developed recommendations for characteristics of
contexts having potential to help uncertified teachers develop expectations for learning consistent with the
culture of science and the NSES. These characteristics, when combined in one setting, describe contexts unlike
those commonly found in university classrooms and school district staff development centers and more like
what occurs in novel settings, such as informal learning environments constructed for "freechoice" learning
(Spector &Burkett, 2002). The combined ten characteristics of a context with potential to influence preservice
and inservice teachers' ability to accommodate to the culture of science are shown in Table 2.
A major aspect of the culture of science is that learning occurs through open-ended or full inquiry (National
Research Council, 1996), a technique resisted by many new and experienced teachers. Such inquiry involves
the process of generating questions, planning an investigation, collecting and organizing data, analyzing and
interpreting the data, sharing with others' interpretations and supporting evidence, and generating new
questions. In the model described here, the teacher education students inquire into what and how they are
learning in both the informal setting and other course experiences. They simultaneously construct
understanding of the extent to which they are functioning within the culture of science.
An informal setting in the community provides a collection of resources that reduce the time and energy
teachers need to invest in inventing, designing, implementing, and cleaning up a classroom. These settings
commonly exhibit more complex events than teachers ordinarily are equipped to illustrate in a traditional
classroom. Thus, if the informal setting is in close proximity to the school, both money and time can be saved.
Further, teachers derive personal satisfaction from interaction with community members when arranging for use
of informal settings (Spector &Barnes, 1988).
The aforementioned theoretical base supports moving science education courses from the university classroom
to a science museum or other informal setting. In the example herein, the museum was selected because of its
proximity to the university, emphasis on science and technology, and the presence of school age children
(Spector &Burkett, 2002). Additionally, the research base about learning in informal settings, such as museums
and science centers, supports this decision (Falk &Dierking, 2000; Hein &Alexander, 1998; Leinhardt &Crowley,
1998; Serrell, 1996). The informal science education research community did not explicitly report how people
learn NOS in informal settings, however, it did indicate that studying how people learn in museums and science
centers had elements in common with NOS. These elements include determining how science and technology
impact each other, developing observation and experimentation skills, and testing ideas as people
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independently discover order in nature (Semper, Diamond, &St. John, 1982).


The model we developed for using an informal setting to teach NOS was tested in the course described below
for preservice and uncredentialed inservice elementary teachers. Similar courses and workshops targeting
uncredentialed secondary school teachers have been successfully implemented.
Venue
The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) as a context for learning to teach science.
The 265,000 square feet at MOSI are filled with interactive exhibits designed to make science real and make a
difference in people's lives. Potential teachers experienced the interaction of science, technology and society in
a wide variety of exhibits. At MOSI students experienced hurricane force winds in the "Gulf Coast Hurricane,"
paddled across a wire that was three stories above the lobby on the high wire bike, learned how the wetlands
can clean water in the "Bio Works Butterfly Garden," explored the natural diversity of Florida in "Welcome to
Florida," learned about what makes the human body so amazing in the "Amazing You" exhibit, soared into the
sky and beyond in the flight and space exhibit, and studied life under the sea from the view of a submersible
vehicle. They especially delighted in taking a preschool/primary grade child's view of the processing, distribution
and sale of orange products in the "O is for Oranges" exhibit. Special events in which each preservice class
participated as a full group included the scripted roleplay of a mission to Mars in a simulated space capsule and
mission control in the Challenger Learning Center, exploration of the night sky in the Planetarium, and viewing
an IMAX film of a naturatisi 's or technologist's adventures. Some of the exhibits changed over the several
semesters in which this model was implemented at MOSI. The outcomes for learners in successive years were
comparable to those described for the class detailed in this paper. Thus, although these exhibits were specific
to MOSI, there are comparably diverse exhibits in interactive museums and other informal science education
venues around the world that can be expected to deliver similar outcomes.
In addition to being in a museum, the course described here was webenhanced, although access to the web is
not necessary for using informal education settings to teach NOS. The website provided a variety of resources
for study and a means of communicating asynchronously among all class participants. Please see Burkett, R.
S., Leard, C. &Spector, B. S. (Summer, 2004), Using an electronic bulletin board in science teacher education:
Issues and tradeoffs for details about the web-enhanced aspect of this course.
Course Instructional Design
The major reflective strategy used in the informal setting (museum) was "using yourself as a learning
laboratory" (Burkett et al., 2003, p. 6). This strategy involved students in systematic inquiry by requiring them to
reflect on their reactions to learning opportunities. Students were asked to analyze their experiences from two
perspectives: looking through the lens of a student and then the lens of a teacher. Using the first perspective,
they engaged in the activities as learners of science. Using the second perspective, they stepped outside
themselves as participants in an event to observe what they were doing, how it felt, and what they were
thinking. Most of the students had little or no experience with reflection, so the following questions were
suggested to stimulate the reflective inquiry: What am I learning about a science topic, about what science is,
about what scientists do, about the learning of science, and about teaching? How am I learning? What do I
understand? What don't I understand? What went on during each experience? How did I react? What can I
learn from that reaction? How were specific events and my responses to them opportunities for me as a
learner? Did the events have any implications for me as a teacher?
Methods students engaged in metacognition, analyzed their own actions and thoughts, and searched for
patterns revealing the way they made decisions that enabled them to construct meaning, and thus learn. The
reflections were shared on an electronic bulletin board associated with the class. Students posted a reflective
journal each week and responded to five self-selected journals each week. The professor responded to all
participants. Students were able to read all the professor's postings to all students. Students referred back to
their museum experiences, analyses, and interpretations to induce meanings for various aspects of NOS and
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construct understanding of the extent to which they were functioning within the culture of science, using
scientific habits of mind to question, examine, and evaluate their own learning experiences.
Gathering and analyzing data about their own learning processes and sharing those in the community of
learners (a) helped learners make sense of course experiences, including understanding NOS; (b) provided
data for self assessment that helped determine what else they needed and wanted to learn; and (c) provided
insight to varied ways their future students were likely to learn. Students made their work public by posting
products in the class' electronic bulletin board for all class peers to review. Participants questioned each other's
use of evidence and reasoning both in class and on the bulletin board.
A primary goal of the course was for learners to develop positive attitudes towards science. An objective in the
course syllabus stated, "The learner will construct an image of her/himself as an individual who actively
participates in science inquiry and values scientific investigation as a process used in daily life. S/he will
eliminate any negative stereotypes of scientists and alleviate any alienation from science" (Spector, 2004, p. 2).
To achieve this objective, the learners themselves had to understand and identify with how scientists operate
and be able to function in accord with the culture of science. These learners had to develop an understanding of
NOS to function within the culture of science. Interviews with scientists of their own choosing within the
museum, the university, and the community at large contributed to students eliminating negative stereotypes of
scientists. A productive approach to learning how scientists work was for learners to "do science." This means
that students use scientific habits of mind to interrogate, inquire systematically, solve problems and make
decisions. The entire course, therefore, was structured as an inquiry into the question, "What characterizes
science teaching in elementary schools consistent with NSES?" Students gathered data from multiple sources,
including experiences in the science museum, a site exploration of their own choosing in their community,
interviews with a scientist, laboratory activities of their own choosing, video taped visits to exemplary science
classrooms, a textbook (Koch, 2004), readings and multimedia products on the course website, weekly journals
and subsequent asynchronous discussions in the website, and face-to-face small group and whole class
meetings. Observations and reflections on their own responses to learning experiences in class were part of
their data set. These learning opportunities were framed as individual inquiries illustrating different degrees of
open-endedness nested within the overall course focal question (inquiry).
The course utilized the five E's lesson plan: engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate (By bee, 1991). This
model facilitated opportunities for participants to conduct inquiry and experience the nature of science and its
culture, and empowered learners to see themselves as individuals who could do science and were positively
disposed to doing science. From this perspective they constructed a vision of science teaching consistent with
current state and national goals. Such a vision enabled them to make appropriate decisions about curriculum,
instruction, and assessment to enthusiastically introduce youngsters to science as a way of knowing and
thinking, and science as a way of learning and teaching, in contrast to science as rhetoric of conclusions.
Setting the course in the museum allowed the structure of the five E's to be experienced multiple times in
authentic contexts.
Procedures at the Museum. Three steps were used at the museum: activity prompts to engage students, times
to explore, and opportunities to debrief in which knowledge being constructed was explained. The activity
prompts provided by the professor guided the students in designing their own explorations of the exhibits within
the museum. Each foray to the exhibits began with a different activity prompt. Learners, however, were advised
to continue to collect data using current and previous activity prompts throughout each successive investigation.
They compared their findings among exhibits to construct patterns and saturate categories. The multiple returns
to the exhibit floor enabled students to apply their knowledge constructions extending them to new contexts
provided by differing exhibits.
Students (N=35/class) explored different exhibits each time they went to the museum floor. Each foray to the
museum exhibit hall lasted between 20 and 30 minutes and was followed by debriefings of varied time blocks
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depending on the nature of the emergent discussion. In debriefing sessions, participants focused on reporting
observations of characteristics of the exhibits, themselves as learners, patrons at the museum, and science
learned. Factors influencing what they observed were explored, and how they made use of evidence was
discussed. In other words, they reflected on, and shared, how they made sense of what they learned from each
foray into the museum evaluating their constructions of their new knowledge. Readings in their textbook and on
the class website served as a theoretical framework for debriefing discussions. Debriefing was key to ensuring
positive impact of the experience in an informal setting.
At the first meeting in the museum, learners received a map showing the location of the exhibits. For the first
and second task, in order to encourage people to get to know each other, students were assigned randomly to
groups of five participants. Building a community of learners was a priority in the course. They were assigned
the first exhibit to explore. Groups were switched for the second task. For succeeding tasks, each self-selected
group went to a different exhibit of their own choosing. The following procedures describe each activity prompt
used, its purpose relating to how to teach science, and the alignment of the activity with the characteristics of
NOS noted earlier in the introduction to this paper.
Activity prompt 1: Design a commercial.
Description. Explore your assigned exhibit and generate a three-minute commercial to sell this exhibit to the rest
of the class. Enact your commercial when the class reconvenes. The debriefing begins with each group
discussing which exhibit they next want to visit as a result of the commercials presented. The full class
addresses these questions: What did you learn at the exhibit? What characteristics of the commercial attracted
you? What characteristics of the exhibit attracted you? Why did these things attract you?
Purpose. Introduce class participants to an overview of the exhibits available in the museum. Begin sensitizing
learners to "using themselves as a learning laboratory" by observing, gathering, recording, analyzing and
placing value on information available about salient features that become data for decision making.
Alignment with NOS. This activity aligns with the NOS characteristic: creativity has an important role in science.
Designing and enacting a commercial is a creative way for students to share the science they are learning.
Activity prompt 2: Analyze the physical structure.
Description. Explore a second exhibit. Record the physical characteristics attracting your attention and those
that cause you to maintain attention. Debriefing begins with groups reading their lists of findings to the full class
and answering questions: (a) What patterns do you see in these data across the groups? Sample findings
include color, movement, size, spatial relationships, sounds, brightness, things that are familiar, things that
appear strange, interactivity, things hidden behind covers to open, etc. (b) What use is this information to you in
a classroom?
Purpose. Practice observing and recording details. Identify characteristics that will engage learners, therefore,
should be considered when building science centers and other learning opportunities in a classroom.
Alignment with NOS. This aligns with the NOS constructs of scientific knowledge is empirical and there are
many ways to do science, because students gather and process data and make comparisons in a variety of
ways.
Activity prompt 3: Human interaction.
Description. While exploring a third exhibit with your self-selected group, attend to, and record, the contents and
dynamics of your interactions with each other and the exhibit. Debriefing: What behaviors of others attracted
you to look at what someone else was experiencing? What did you talk about to each other? What questions
did you ask? What did you do to generate answers with each other? How did you determine which answers
were best?
Purpose. Help students become aware that the natural process of learning involves interactions, creativity,
search for evidence, and social construction.
Alignment with NOS. Aligns with scientific knowledge is empirical or based on theory laden observation,
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experimental evidence, rational arguments, and skepticism, because students are experimenting and
developing arguments. This also aligns with creativity has an important role in science because students are
using their creativity during the process to gather and analyze data.
Activity prompt 4: Link to the standards.
Description. Collect evidence for what standards might be addressed through an exhibit of your choice.
Debriefing: How could any of the exhibits be used to meet major standards? How are fundamental topical
standards included in the exhibits? Shared findings demonstrated observers needed to go beyond the obvious
topics such as biology, chemistry, or space science and see how any of the exhibits that at first appear to be
specific to a sub-discipline of science, could be used to meet major standards, e.g., inquiry standards, process
standards, STS standards, unifying themes, etc. Also some fundamental topical standards such as force and
motion or energy could be addressed in almost every exhibit.
Purpose. Show that one can contribute to learning many similar standards regardless of the apparent topic or
sub discipline of an exhibit. This emphasized almost any event could be used to provide students opportunity to
learn many required standards.
Alignment with NOS. This aligns with science is embedded in the culture, because people looked through their
personal sensitizing lenses to discover the science standards they saw within the exhibits.
Activity prompt 5: Make connections.
Description. Identify various science concepts, technology concepts, and connections to social studies and
other disciplines in an exhibit. Debriefing: How can these connections contribute to creating engaging and
productive learning environments in schools? What is the relationship between hard and soft technologies?
Purpose. Sensitize learners to science, technology, and society interaction and the value and ease of enacting
transdisciplinary education.
Alignment with NOS. Tins aligns with science is an attempt to explain natural phenomena and science and
technology impact each other, because students are asked to focus on science and technology concepts in the
exhibit areas.
Activity prompt 6: Observe youngsters.
Description. Watch what youngsters do in the museum. Do not interact with them. Listen to what they say and
to whom they say it. Watch what adults who are with the children do and how the children respond to the adults'
actions and statements. How does this compare to what you did? What are parallel actions in schools?
Purpose. Learn what youngsters do naturally when stimulated by their own curiosity, creativity, and actions of
people around them in a rich environment, and when not directed by a teacher. What they do is usually
consistent with the nature of science. Science procedures formalize, systematize, and record these natural
responses. This is intended to help participants get past experiences that have encouraged potential teachers
to view science as something out of reach or negative.
Alignment with NOS. Aligns with creativity has an important role in science, because youngsters naturally use
inquiry, and they creatively engage in this process based on their individuality.
Activity prompt 7: Consider logistics.
Description. Attend an exhibit that requires you to wait, e.g., the high wire bike or the hurricane. What do you do
with the rest of the group when waiting for each person to take a turn interacting with an exhibit? How do you
move a group from place to place and make it a learning opportunity?
Purpose. Maximize learning for every student regardless of the need to wait or transfer between locations.
Alignment with NOS. This aligns with science is embedded in the culture, because participants are asked to
reflect on their small group's cultural expectations in this particular setting. This opens dialog for talking about
science teaching and learning in a classroom culture or a world culture.
Activity prompt 8: Explore the Planetarium.
Description. During the third class meeting, students participated as a large group in a visit to the planetarium.
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They entered the planetarium to experience a one-hour complex technology lecture by a talented performer and
space expert. He described the important role of creativity in space science, the way space science is limited by
available technology, and the way space science history is evolutionary and revolutionary.
Students had an opportunity to ask questions of the presenter. The debriefing was conducted immediately
asking such questions as: How did you feel about this experience? Atypical response was "I loved it. I expected
to fall asleep because it was dark and those padded reclining seats were so comfortable. To my surprise I
stayed awake the whole time." They were completely engaged by the presentation. Next, they were asked to
individually write down all the new information they had obtained. Within five minutes, eyes started to wander.
Each person usually listed one or two items. Occasionally someone listed a handful of items. The ensuing
discussion was especially important, because most of these learners were convinced that "real" teaching was
lecturing. They believed they could improve students' learning if only they could be better lecturers and use
more props. Here they had first hand data to contradict that assumption. Additionally, the variation in items
students wrote provided opportunity to discuss the idea that the more you know about a topic the easier it is to
learn more, even when the new information is complex. The students realized that it may be just as energy
consuming to learn basic information as sophisticated information, if you have no, or minimal, related
knowledge upon which to build.
This opened a discussion of the role of prior knowledge and its relationship to the influence of theories on
scientists. To provide flexibility, the professor did not plan a specific sequence for topics of importance she
intended to include in each class session. Instead, she consistently sought teachable moments during face-toface class interactions and bulletin board discussions on the website to address key elements. A teachable
moment was when a need to know a particular topic became evident through actions, words, or body language.
For example, within the first three weeks of a class, without exception, one or more students will say that
science proved something and/or something is just a theory. This provided occasion to explicitly direct their
attention to the section of the syllabus labeled "Language of Science," and discuss the use of common lay
language where scientific use of the words has different meanings. Students commonly resisted the notion that
science can disprove something, but cannot prove anything. They also found it difficult to accept the difference
between laws and theories and that theories do not grow up to be laws. These ideas were cast in the same light
as the myth of only one scientific method they had encountered throughout their K-12 schooling.
Purpose. Provide self generated evidence that passive lecture was not the most effective teaching strategy.
Identify the characteristics and impact of passive activity compared to active experience with the scripted roleplay in the simulated Challenger Center the week before.
Alignment with NOS. This activity aligns with science and technology impact each ether and the evolutionary
and revolutionary nature of science is revealed in its history. The narrator in the planetarium described what
scientists thought about the universe and how that had changed with the Hubble telescope. Students saw that
science was limited by the sophistication of the available technology.
Activity prompt 9: Explore a place in the community.
Description. With your team, explore a place in the community to conduct a site exploration with children. Write
a collaborative report describing how you could use this place as a setting for teaching science to children and
post it in the discussion area of the class website. Debriefing: Reflect on how you went about investigating the
site and learning for yourself. Your reactions provide clues for ways to make the site exploration an interesting
adventure for children. You have up to 30 minutes to share with the entire class your plan for children to use
your site. You may use any format for your performance/ presentation.
Purpose. Encourage prospective teachers to do the following: (a) explore ways to maximize learning in diverse
types of real world settings (b) experience the way an individual's perceptual screen influences what the person
will see in a setting and how that diversity contributes richness to understanding the whole, and (c) value their
own adventure and learning through full open-ended inquiry as a meaningful way for their future school children
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to learn science.
Alignment with NOS. This activity aligns with the NOS precepts of science and technology impact each other,
scientific knowledge is empirical, science is embedded in the culture, creativity is important, and science is an
attempt to explain natural phenomena.
Students' Interpretations and Responses Related to NOS
Developing culture compatible with NOS in a museum setting. When the science methods class was taught in
the university classroom, the instructor modeled aspects of the nature of science including inquiry and ethical
behaviors. This modeling was not consistent with traditional preservice students' expectations for the role of the
instructor in the classroom (see Table 1). Discrepancies between these expectations and course reality led to
frustration and anxiety on the part of students. These were expressed as resistance to learning and teaching
consistent with the nature of science
When the course was taught in the science museum, the students' traditional cultural expectations (See Table
1) did not surface as a barrier to accepting a way of learning and teaching science consistent with current
beliefs about the ways people learn. The curiosity of learners surfaced. Students consistently sought new
knowledge by asking questions about the context and lesson planning, and went about implementing ways to
answer their own questions. They made their thinking (and work), public instead of keeping it a private
communication between the student and the instructor, as had been the case when the course was conducted
in the university classroom. In cooperative groups exploring the same area of the museum, the natural tendency
was for people to talk to each other about the exhibits they were experiencing and to share and question each
other's ideas about these experiences. It appeared that the action characterizing scientific inquiry came
naturally in the novel setting of the museum. Students lost the self-consciousness that often inhibited them in a
classroom. They were encouraged to focus on the task instead of themselves.
A new culture was established in the museum context with new norms such as "we share our thoughts and
feelings," "we help each other out," "we question ideas and look for evidence," "we evaluate the quality of the
evidence", and "we don't punch a time clock." In the museum, where cues led to perceptions of everyone being
a part of a learning community, uncertified teachers' cultural expectations that they should be teacher
dependent and guess what is in the teacher's head were replaced with expectations for multiple acceptable
answers constructed by various members of the learning community. Peer pressure to compete for the right
answer, another phenomenon seen in the classroom, was reduced with the formation of this community.
Relationships between the way participants constructed knowledge of science and science teaching and the
way scientists constructed new knowledge through multiple forms of inquiry became obvious. One student
summed up the change for herself this way:
* "Now, because of metacognition, reflection, and active engagement processes in the museum, I am growing
by leaps and bounds. ... I realize that we are going through a scientific inquiry process ourselves and it almost
feels as if I am the one in complete control over what I learn and how I learn it. It is amazing to see how far I had
come! No longer am I frustrated and searching for the correct answers, praise, or good grades! I just want to
learn, inquire and connect! No longer do I feel bound to a textbook, syllabus, or teacher-guided suggestion. I
realize that while these things are extremely important, it is more important for me to explore independently
those things that I find interesting and to apply my observations to what I am learning and experience in this
class."
Establishing positive attitudes toward science. Helping students think positively about science was the first step
in gaining a new perspective on the NOS. The following quotes show how different students were learning to
enjoy science:
* "Several weeks ago I would never have thought that I would be excited about showing up for an 8 AM class.
Yes, this past Tuesday was another exciting class!"
* "I wish all my classes were as enjoyable as this one. I am learning so much."
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* "The book is interesting- What a refreshing change from my other classes!"


* "I learned a great deal from this class, and I'll admit that originally I didn't think I was going to!"
Changing perceptions of what science is. Students initially described science as a dull, boring, disconnected list
of memorized "facts." Students' perception of NOS began to change as they had opportunities to explore
exhibits in the museum. Science became pursuing curiosity through creatively and systematically investigating
the natural and human enhanced world around them. They were amazed to realize that science was embedded
in society and present in every aspect of their lives. The following quotes from various students' journals, exit
memos, and self-assessments illustrate their changing perceptions:
* "Science is not a bunch of disconnected facts to memorize and repeat on tests, rather it is an exploration and
journey into the questions how and why as it relates to everything in our own lives."
* "I think that . . . [site exploration presentations] opened my eyes a little more on the places we can take
children ... so they might explore and realize that science is all around them."
* "I feel it is important for [our students] to . . . discover phenomena on their own and if any questions come up,
they can research for answers."
* "[In the planetarium] , the data gathered was that the kids used their imagination to learn. They said things like
? see the scorpion.' They also used their prior knowledge of a recent story about constellations to build on the
new information they were visualizing."
* "Okay Okay! Looks like science is going to beat me over the head! .... Everywhere I look its science. My brain
hurts! It seems like once I finish observing one thing; there are six more things that have my attention. I know
this is a good thing, but ... I think sometimes ignorance really is bliss!"
Science as an on-going process of improving human understanding of the natural world as more evidence
accumulates was captured in this student comment, "Not only do we learn new things, but we are constantly
evolving and changing what we already know."
Science became asking questions, gathering data, sharing evidence, reasoning, interpreting, and negotiating
interpretations within a community of learners.
* "I like that we were able to discuss the answers with our own group in order to combine our ideas and
construct different possibilities."
* "The unique thing that I observe is how everyone uses and obtains information in different ways."
* "... the main idea I took from class today is diversity. For each group had different interpretations on the
midterm and each group presented differently. As a teacher I think this is one of the most important concepts to
understand."
Changing perceptions of science and scientists. Students shifted their understandings of science from being
some incomprehensible thing done by solitary eccentric males in a laboratory to a process they and their future
students could use to learn together about the world. At the end of the course, students provided evidence in
drawings and conversations that they now recognized themselves and their students as capable of doing
science. Drawings showed adult females, often labeled "me," accompanied by one or more children gathering
data in a natural setting. They all showed happy faces. Students were also explicit in their journals, "I feel that I
have learned that everyone is a scientist and is always collecting data."
Changing Relationships with Science. As a result of their explorations in the informal setting of the museum,
students began to develop a deeper understanding of NOS by examining their own relationships with science.
They began to perceive themselves as individuals capable of taking part in scientific inquiry. Evidence of
students' changing relationships with science was seen in the following quotes:
* "I now understand that science can be a way of life, simply taking time to investigate and explore. Being
curious and wanting to know why is a characteristic of a scientifically minded person that can be emotional and
fun at the same time."
* "I now come in with my own questions and when [the instructor] gives us the opportunity to visit the exhibits,
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it's up to me to learn what I want. I'm taking the opportunity that I was denied when I was 'learning' about
science. ... [The instructor] gives us enough time to discover things on our own ..."
* "This class has drastically changed my point of view of science. I am not only a person who uses scientific
methods to make decisions and to live my life, but rather I have become one with the idea of science as
knowing. Science is not DNA or factual information. Science is life. We cannot be born, Uve, reproduce, or die
without it. (I hope you understand I am not speaking biology, chemistry, or physics here although they do apply.)
Science is language, music, math, society, interpersonal skills, grief, playtime, and even democracy! I challenge
everyone to find one thing that science does not affect! In the end, science has become everything. It is the
basis of all that we do, think, and experience."
Changing understandings of science teaching. The students were successful learning science through openended inquiry within the ethical behaviors characterizing traditions of science and had fun doing it. As they
began to experience science as meaningful, relevant to themselves, fun, and having a lasting quality, they
entertained the idea that inquiry within the ethical traditions of science was a meaningful way to enable their
future elementary school students to learn science. Representative statements from students included the
following:
* "Isn't it amazing how much information we have forgotten since childhood? Teachers taught much differently
then. I know I am retaining much more information in the way our instructors are teaching us how to be
'teaching' our students. Given these opportunities we can expand on so much, which leads us to understand
things in our own ways and in turn share the knowledge."
* "... I really enjoy being able to work hands-on and learn by experience. This is also a great way for children to
learn. By being able to explore on their own, they are able to come up with their own conclusions to why things
work the way they do."
* "... This course . . . has really opened my eyes to how traditional classes instill 'pre-packaged' learning into
their students by teaching science as just a series of facts. Science taught as inquiry allows students to question
what they see and know and find scientific answers for themselves."
* "We are now called upon to become warriors in our own classrooms, families, and communities. We have
been empowered. It is our responsibility to encourage the world to learn all the implications of science."
* "I have learned how to experience situations, make connections, to explore independently and then I was
handed the perfect tool [the 5E's] for helping others do the same! Wonderful!"
Conclusion
By taking students to a museum or other informal setting, they were removed from the typical classroom
atmosphere and placed in a more relaxed learning environment. In this way students let go of their perceptions
of what learning looked like and became free to explore through inquiry. Students studied exhibit areas by
becoming immersed in the experience and developed interesting ways to share their learning, a concept
stressed through the learning laboratory. The course continued to help students build their skills with repeated
opportunities to practice while building a community of learners. Revisiting the museum exhibit areas with
various focal questions in mind helped students recognize inquiry as an iterative process.
These prospective teachers when immersed in an inquiry experience began to recognize themselves as
capable individuals who derived benefits from using scientific habits of mind in their everyday life. They began
to recognize the relevance of science to human existence and to see that developing scientifically literate
students included helping students realize their own potential. As future teachers their responsibilities he with
helping their students learn how to learn and providing opportunities for them to practice within a community of
learners that reflect the world beyond the classroom.
When the methods class was taught in the university classroom, students resisted the paradigm consistent with
the culture of science. At the museum, students readily accommodated to the culture of science. Their
traditional cultural expectations and subsequent behaviors did not surface. Students established and
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participated in the culture of science, which led to rapid changes in their perceptions of the NOS, scientists, their
own relationships with science, and how science should be taught. They changed their perception of science
from a subject to be avoided to a continuing adventurous inquiry into the natural and human enhanced world
around them, an adventure that was meaningful and rewarding to themselves and their future students.
An impromptu conversation with education personnel at the museum indicated they did not perceive their
current exhibits to be designed specifically to contribute to learning the nature of science. In fact, when given
the list of characteristics of NOS, the immediate reaction was these things were not considered in building the
exhibits, but probably should be. This suggests the instructor's approach gives any informal setting potential to
be used to teach NOS.
The three steps identified for use at the museum: an activity prompt, a time to explore, and an opportunity to
debrief could be used in other informal settings such as a park or beach. The model for learning NOS in
informal settings is summarized in Table 3 on the next page.
The activity prompts described above guide students in designing their own explorations of a setting. After a
debriefing session, students receive an additional prompt to explore another section of the setting, gather more
data, and participate in further debriefing. This iterative process could be used for studying a tropical island, a
glacial area, an amusement park, or a circus. Science education leaders implementing these procedures will
support construction of an understanding of NOS, as well as how to teach science "by doing" inquiry in informal
settings.
There are added benefits to using an informal setting to teach the nature of science. They include (a)
stimulating teachers to include informal education settings in their future teaching plans and (b) establishing
partnerships between schools and organizations in the community, an initiative that appeals to supportive
funding agencies. Science education leaders, whose responsibilities may provide them more flexible use of time
than teachers in all day face-to-face contact with students, can serve as liaisons to informal science education
organizations. They will then be able to make the necessary connections and arrangements to benefit teachers.
Additionally, science education leaders using an informal setting assists teachers in making science relevant to
the real world (Riedinger et al., 2010), setting the stage for life long learning of science by providing necessary
inquiry skills and fostering a continuum between school and after school/ home activities that continue and
enrich science learning.
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stories. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.


AuthorAffiliation
Barbara S. Spector, Ph.D., is a professor of science education, and Director of The Informal Science Institutions
Environmental Education Graduate Certificate Program in the Department of Secondary Education, University
of South Rorida, Tampa, FL.
Correspondence concerning this article should be directed to:
Dr. Barbara Spector
1536 Sanctuary Drive
Tampa, FL 33647
813-971-1856
spector2@usf.edu
Ruth Burkett, Ph.D., is an associate professor of science education in the Elementary and Early Childhood
Education Department, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO.
Cyndy Leard, Ph.D., is the education director at the Science Center of Pinellas County, St. Petersburg, FL.
Subject: Science education; Museums; Teaching; Theory; Society; Museum exhibits; Educational technology;
Elementary schools; Experiential learning; Informal education; Methods; Peer review;
Publication title: Science Educator
Volume: 21
Issue: 1
Pages: 51-61
Number of pages: 11
Publication year: 2012
Publication date: Summer 2012
Year: 2012
Publisher: National Science Education Leadership Association
Place of publication: Johnson City
Country of publication: United States
Publication subject: Education--Teaching Methods And Curriculum, Sciences: Comprehensive Works
ISSN: 10943277
Source type: Scholarly Journals
Language of publication: English
Document type: Feature
Document feature: Tables References
ProQuest document ID: 1079563088
Document URL: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1079563088?accountid=38628
Copyright: Copyright National Science Education Leadership Association Summer 2012
Last updated: 2013-03-15
Database: ProQuest Agriculture Journals

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