Cognitive and Developmental Components of Understanding the Nature of Science

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Title: Cognitive and Developmental Components of Understanding the Nature of Science
Author: Dotger, Sharon
Advisors: David DeMaster, Committee Member
Len Annetta, Committee Member
Glenda Carter, Committee Member
M. Gail Jones, Committee Chair
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to determine the degree to which years of education, college major, or reflective judgment stage influences individual's understandings of the nature of science. Using a cross-sectional design influenced by the literature describing the development of reflective judgment and nature of science understandings, this study encompasses the viewpoints of 323 individuals from ninth grade through graduate study. This research involves the careful selection of instruments for assessing these two complex constructs, and the processes used to select and rate participants responses is described in detail. Multinomial ordinal regression was used to determine the significance of educational level, major, and reflective judgment on nature of science views. Results indicate that high school students as a whole are least likely to respond appropriately to questions about the nature of science. However, the performance of college students is inconsistent with predictions, college freshmen more often select the desired response than college seniors or graduate students. Additionally, college major has no significant impact on nature of science understandings. Reflective judgment, a term that describes cognitive developmental model of advanced thinking skills, is found to have the most significant correlations with nature of science views. Reflective thinkers are more likely to select the desired nature of science response than quasi-reflective and pre-reflective thinkers for six of the ten questions. Discussion of results is followed by implications for science teaching and learning in K-12 classrooms.
Date: 2006-08-06
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Science Education

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