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[1]KWARA STATE SCIENCE TEACHERS’ PHILOSOPHICAL

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By

 

‘Bode Adeyemi

and

‘Kanmi Abimbola

 

 

Abstract

            This study was designed to investigate philosophical views on the nature of science held by Kwara State Science. Teachers based on statements made by the logical empiricists and the ‘new’ philosophers of science.

            Subjects for the study were one hundred and twenty trained and untrained graduate science teachers teaching Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Integrated Science at the secondary school level. The data collected were subjected to chi-square (x2) statistical analysis.

            The results indicated that there was a statistical significant difference between trained and untrained graduate science teachers’ philosophical views on the nature of science. Trained graduate science teachers held views related to logical empiricists while philosophers of science

            There was a statistical significant difference between trained and untrained graduate science teachers with longstanding teaching experience concerning their philosophical views on the nature of science.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

            For more than three decades, science education researchers with bias for philosophy of science have been preoccupied with how to measure the understanding of the nature of science, using students, scientists, science teachers, science educators, and philosophy of science as their subject (Abah, 1979, 1982, Billeh and Hassan, 1975; Carey and Stauss, 1968, 1970; Kimball, 1967-68; Mackey, 1971 and Ogunniyi, 1982, 1983).

            Several factors have contributed to the growing attention of philosophers of science and science education researchers to philosophical studies. One of these is the fact that scientific knowledge is growing at a rate, which makes it impossible for text material to be completely up-to-date, and the universal assumption that progress can only occur if it is cumulative as attested to by Kemeny and Oppenheim (1970). These and other factors gave impetus to philosophical studies, which led to the emergences of some schools of thought. Prominent among them are the logical empiricism and the ‘new’ philosophy of science (Abimbola, 1983).

            One of the aims of philosophers of science is to give philosophical analyses and explanations about the concept and nature of science. This implies that studying philosophy of science can assist science teachers to understand the true nature of science. It is a realization of this importance that the Association for Science Education (ASE, 1963) recommended an inclusion of history and philosophy of science into Pre-Service teacher education programme. Very little has been achieved in this area in Nigeria, because only five out of the existing twenty-one Federal Universities currently include philosophy of science into their science teacher education programmes (Adeyemi, 1990). However, history and philosophy of science is now to be taught compulsorily in all Nigerian Universities. It is even a condition for accreditation.

 

The Problem

            Science education researchers interested in the philosophy of science have been concerned with the nature of science as an outcome variable towards the development of an adequate scientific knowledge. Researches have long been conducted and, in some cases, specifically designed to improve science teachers’ conceptions of the nature of science with the anticipation of improving students’ conceptions of science. However, it is important to note that science education researchers interested in philosophy of science have often not been concerned with determining science teachers’ philosophical views of two dominant schools of thought in philosophy of science as they relate to the nature of science per se. It is against this background that this investigation becomes necessary.

 

Purpose of the Study

            The specific purposes of this study were (1) to identify any existing differences between the philosophical views of the trained and untrained graduate science teachers on the nature of science, and (ii) to determine the extent to which teaching experience had influence on science teachers’ philosophical views on the nature science.

            In order to accomplish these tasks, the two null hypotheses below were formulated:

HO 1:   There is no statistically significant difference between the trained and untrained graduate science teachers’ philosophical views on the nature of science when considering the views held by the two dominant schools of thought in philosophy of science.

HO2:    There is no statistically significant difference between trained and untrained graduate science teachers with long standing teaching experience and their philosophical views on the nature of science.

 

The following are definitions of terms used in this study:

i)                    Nature of science – means the processes, the products, the ethics, and progress of science;

ii)                   Trained science teachers – they are science teachers’ who possess degrees such as bachelor of Science (Education), Bachelor of Education (Science), Nigeria Certificate in Education plus Bachelor of Science (Hons.), bachelor of Science (Hons.) plus Post Graduate Diploma in Education, Master of Education, and Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education;

iii)                 Untrained science teachers – they are science teachers’ holding at least a bachelor’s degree majoring in one of these science subjects (Biology, Botany, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Microbiology, Physics, and Zoology) but who have no basic training in education;

iv)                 Long teaching experience – graduate science teachers’ who have taught either one of the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Integrated Science for more than five years at secondary school level.

 

Instrumentation

            The questionnaire used for this study was divided into two sections. Section A, contains personal information like teaching experience and educational/professional qualification(s). Section B, contains fifty philosophical statements about the nature of science based on concepts like products, processes, ethics, and progress of science. These statements were selected from one or more publications of the following philosophers of science: Carnap, Harre, Hempel, Kuhn, Lakatos, Laudan, Popper, and Toulmin.

            The response to the Statements were arranged through the use of a three point Likert Scale of: Agree, (a), Neutral (N), and Disagree (D). This Likert scaling method is designed to assist in eliciting the relative intensity of the respondents’ views about the philosophical statements put forward for evaluating/appraisal/assessment. In this arrangement, statements are made either as a negative or positive sense with the researchers having a model answer. One point was awarded doe each response in agreement with the model answer, while, zero point for a neutral point.

            Four experienced science educators validated the instrument: all are senior lecturers at the Faculty of Education, University of Ilorin, Nigeria. The validators used some criteria consistent with those of Ogunniyi and Pella (1980) as point of reference. A total of ninety-two statements were proposed for validation. The validation exercise led to the elimination of thirty-five statements, leaving fifty-seven philosophical statements on the nature of science.

            The validated instrument was used for a pilot test involving thirty graduate science teachers of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Integrated Science for selected secondary schools in Asa and Ilorin Local Government Areas of Kwara State. The validated model answers were used to score their responses. From the pilot study, it was found that six statements were incomprehensible to science teachers, while one statement was found redundant and consequently eliminated as a result of being a repetition of one of the statements. Thus, the validated set of statements used for this study contained fifty philosophical statements, all on the nature of science.

            The reliability of the instrument was not determined because the study centred on philosophical views of the subjects sampled, rather, than seeking their understanding or their conceptions of the nature of science. Furthermore, the researchers are of the opinion that philosophical views of the subjects sampled may not change, since views or opinions are mental attributes, which involve expressing one’s feelings.

 

Sample

            One hundred and twenty graduate science teachers of which seventy-eight are trained and forty-two are untrained teaching Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Integrated Science at secondary school level were sampled. Agricultural science teachers did not come into the sample frame for this study because the discipline is regarded as applied science, rather than pure science. The study was limited to forty-eight secondary schools in the state and only six out of the then fourteen Local Government Areas were sampled. Simple random sampling technique was used for the selection of the teachers, while; stratified sampling technique was used for the selection of the teachers, and for the selection of schools. The researchers personally administered the questionnaire.

 

Data Analysis

            The data collected using the research questionnaire were analysed to test the research hypotheses formulated with the aid of relevant statistical tools.

            To test Hypothesis one, after a g\frequency count of the responses of science teachers that are in agreement with the model answers, chi-square (X2) statistics was used to test the hypothesis i.e. to compare philosophical views of trained and untrained graduate science teachers on the nature of science.

            These procedures and statistical techniques were used to test Hypothesis two. The level of significance (&) for the test was 0.05.

 

Result

            Table 1 shows that there seems to be a significant difference between the philosophical views of trained and untrained graduate science teachers’ on the nature of science (0.05 alpha level). The null hypothesis (Hypothesis 1) is therefore, rejected.

            Table 2 indicates that, there is a statistically significant difference between trained and untrained science teachers’ with long standing teaching experience in their philosophical views on the nature of science. The null hypothesis (hypothesis 2) is therefore, rejected.

 

Table 1

Chi-square (X2) test for trained and untrained graduate science teachers’ philosophical views on the nature of science based on views held by the Logical empiricists and the ‘new’ philosophers of science.

 

Respondents

Logical Empiricists

‘New’ Philosophers of Science

Total

Trained

Science

Teachers

1139

(1,096.4)

1,515

(1,549.6)

2646

Untrained

Science

Teachers

486

(520)

769

(734.9)

1,255

Total

1,616

2,284

3,900

X2 = 5.6 Critical value 3.84* df = 1

 

*Significant at 0.05 alpha level

 

Table 2

            Chi-square (X2) test for trained and untrained graduate Science Teacher with long standing teaching experience and their philosophical views on the nature of science.

 

 

Respondents

Logical Empiricists

‘New’ Philosophers of Science

Total

Trained Science

Teachers with long teaching experience

821

(795.6)

1,099

(1,124.4)

1,920

Untrained Science

Teachers with long teaching experience

164

(189.4)

293

(267.6)

457

Total

985

1392

2377

X2 = 7.5 Critical value 3.84* df = 1

 

Significant at 0.05 alpha level.

 

Discussion of results

            From the analysis of results, Table 1 reveals that there is statistically significant difference between trained and untrained graduate science teachers and their philosophical views on the nature of science in this sample. This result agrees with the finding of Billeh and Hassan (1975) which says that significant increase in teachers’ understanding of science results from their attendance of training courses in science teaching but the result is not consistent with the finding of Kimball 91967-68), Lavach (1967), and Scmidt (1967), who found that the mean score of scientists was greater than the of the science teachers on their understanding of their nature of science.

            This significant difference between philosophical views of trained and untrained graduate science teachers’ on the nature of science teachers cannot be totally obsolete, at least, there is the tendency that these views about science will enhance their philosophical views on the nature of science. Another possible explanation is that, trained science teachers had undergone a course in philosophy – philosophy of education, which in most cases is applicable to the sciences, i.e. the two disciplines are concerned about analyzing concepts, posing critical questions, and seeking rational answers or taking rational decisions about concepts in science or education. In essence, philosophy in general, involves the use of logic, encouragement, and development of critical thinking that are consistent, in order to arrive at valid conclusions. These characteristics can probably be said to have contributed to trained science teachers holding adequate views on the nature of science. It is in realization of these important roles played by philosophy that the national University Commission has included philosophy and history of science as part of general studies in all Nigerian Universities. According to Ikoku (1990), “philosophy has been made compulsory for all undergraduate in Nigerian Universities as part of the plans by the National University Commission to improve academic standards” (p.8). Although the plans has not been implemented, but it is hoped that the plan would enable students to learn about logic, philosophy, and history of science which would enhance their thinking in order spheres of their academic work.

            Another possible explanation that can be advanced for the type of result obtained above is that untrained graduate science teachers did not offer a course in philosophy either in education or science. They underwent training during their undergraduate courses as scientific researchers or scientific investigators, without necessarily questioning their scientific procedures. As a result, they may be very uncritical in their approaches to science. They merely want to ‘know the facts’ without necessarily questioning how these facts are generated. Another possible fact is that, untrained science teachers may just be interested in science per se, which they might apply with good conscience, and without searching their mind why they should engage in such activity.

            Table 1 also, shows that trained graduate science teachers held views related to logical empiricism, as regards their philosophical views on the nature of science, based on statements made by the logical empiricists and the ‘new’ philosophers of science. This can be viewed from the fact that trained graduate science teachers had higher frequency counts when the number of statements made by logical empiricists and the ‘new’ philosophers of science, on the nature of science are compared. This point can probably be attributed to the fact that trained science teachers had previous knowledge of the tenets of empiricism. Al least, views held by this school of thought had long been known during their pre-service training in philosophy of education. As a result, trained graduate science teachers would know the logic to use in analyzing some educational concepts. The same logic known during their pre-service can also contribute to their philosophical views on the nature of science at higher levels since logic giving national forms for ordering the result of thought, i.e. by considering what sorts of arguments that are valid. This attribute is similar to some of the characteristics of philosophy mentioned earlier.

            Another argument in support of this point is that logical empiricism has been in existence since the beginning of the twentieth-century. Their tenets about science are common with the Western (English-Speaking) world. The colonization of Nigeria by Britain, one of the strongholds of logical empiricists, is probably accountable for the dominant influence of this school of thought on trained Nigerian science teachers. Particularly, with the consideration of the fact that most of them were trained in a British-oriented educational system, either in Nigeria or abroad (English-speaking countries). As a result of this, views held by this school of thought might have been transferred to the present system of science education programmes in faculties of education in Nigerian Universities. Furthermore, the frequency counts of philosophical views of trained graduate science on statements made by the ‘new’ philosophers of science are not as high as these made by the logical empiricists. This point could be an indication that trained graduate science teachers may since majority of these trained teachers must have passed through science education programmes in which tenets of the ‘new’ philosophers of science were not exposed to them, more so, the ‘new’ philosophy of science as the modern “challengers” of logical empiricism, came to being during the latter part of the twentieth-century. As a result, one cannot expect their impact to be felt if compared with logical empiricism.

            Result of the test of hypothesis two on Table 2 indicates that there is a statistically significant difference between trained and untrained graduate science teachers with long standing teaching experience and their philosophical views on the nature of science. This finding is consistent with the view of Brickhouse (1990), who says that the number of years of teaching science is likely to influence the teachers view about science. On the other hand, the finding is contrary to the views of Abah (1979-1982), Billeh and Hassan (1975), and Kimball (1967-68). Their findings indicated that experience or time has no influence on science teachers’ understanding of the nature of science. This could be an indication that views or opinions can be over a period of time. This might be as a result of subsequent application of their views in the subject matter (science) in everyday life. Another possible explanation for the significant difference is that the two categories of science teachers might have come in contact with the tenets of these schools of thought through seminars and workshops or as a result of reading some textbooks on philosophy of science. Moreover, views of the ‘new’ philosophers of science, rather than those of the logical empiricists make more sense intuitively to an average person in Nigeria who is familiar with science. These and other factors might be responsible for this significant difference in their philosophical views on the nature of science.

 

Conclusions

            From this research, one could conclude that: Trained graduate science teachers held adequate philosophical views on the nature of science than their untrained counterparts. Trained graduate science teachers held views related to logical empiricism, while, untrained graduate science teachers imbibe views related to the ‘new’ philosophy of science.

            Long standing teaching experience had influence on both trained and untrained graduate science teachers’ philosophical views on the nature of science.

 

Recommendations

            From the fore-going conclusions, it is hoped that the following recommendations would enhance the development of teacher education programmes in Nigeria:

            The inadequacies in the preparation of science teachers in most of our colleges of education and faculties of education in Nigeria Universities result from the non-inclusion of history and philosophy of science in our science teacher education programme. As a result, science teachers’ philosophical views about the nature of science are unlikely to change. In view of this situation, there is need to have a more balanced treatment if history and philosophy of science for prospective science teachers in Nigeria in order to successfully promote adequate views of the nature of science among science students. Unless this problem is tackled, majority of trained science teachers may go into schools without holding adequate views of the nature of their own discipline thereby jeopardizing effective teaching and learning.

            Since untrained science teachers will continue to teach science in our secondary schools and teachers colleges in Nigeria, due to non-professionalization of teaching, it is opined that the curricula for the trained of undergraduate science students should entail some aspects of history and philosophy of science. This would enable them to build up a coherent picture of science and successfully prompt adequate conceptions of the nature of science among future scientists. In addition, it may enable untrained science teachers to be aware of the principles they ought to observe in order to make valid conclusions especially during scientific investigations.

            The Science Teachers’ Association if Nigeria, being the primary professional body concerned with science teaching and learning in Nigeria, should endeavour to organize seminars/workshops in each of the states in Nigeria including Abuja for science teachers on the relevance of history and philosophy of science to school science teaching. Such a seminar or workshop would enhance science teachers’ historical and philosophical foundations of science teaching.

            Since this research has limited scope, there is the need for replication by using other population within or outside the state, before broad generalizations can be made.

            Further research may be needed to consider other variables such as science subject(s) taught by science teachers, this would enable the potential researchers to find out if disciplines would have influence on science teachers’ philosophical views on the nature of science. This study is necessary because of the internal diversity especially in the physical sciences. By so doing, it may provide an insight into the diverse views of teachers in each discipline.

 

 

 

References

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Abah, C.O. (1982). Perception of the nature of science: A comparison of different groups of science teachers’ in Kaduna State, Nigeria. 23rd annual conference proceedings, Science Teachers’ Association of Nigeria, 41-45.

 

Abimbola, I.O. (1983). The relevance of the ‘new’ philosophy of Science for the science curriculum. School Science and Mathematics, 83(3), 81-91.

 

Adeyemi, G.B. (1990). Science Teachers’ philosophical views on the nature of science. Unpublished Master’s Research Project. Department of Curriculum Studies and Educational Technology, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria.

 

Association of Science Education (ASE) (1963). The training of graduate science teachers’ in England, Wales, and Scotland. A section of part II of the science and education report. London: Murrey.

 

Billeh, V.Y., and Hassan, E.O. (1875). Factors affecting teachers’ gain in understanding of the nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 12(3), 209-219.

 

Brickhouse, N.W. (1990). Teachers’ beliefs about the nature of science and their relationship to classroom practice. Journal of Teacher Education, 41(3) 53-62.

 

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Carnap, R. (1966). An introduction to the philosophy of science. (Gardner, Martin, Ed.) New York: Basic Books, Inc.

 

Harre, R. (1972). The philosophies of science: An introductory survey. London: Oxford University Press.

 

Hempel, C.G. 91966). Philosophy of natural science. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

 

Ikoku, C. (1990). Philosophy now compulsory for students. The Guardian, June 16, p.8.

 

Kemeny, J.G. and Oppenheim, P. (1970). On reduction. In Brody B.A. (Ed.) Readings in Philosophy of Science. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

 

Kimball, M.E. (1967 – 68). Understanding of the nature of science: A comparison of scientists and science teachers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 5, 110-120.

 

Kuhn, T.S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions (2nd Ed.) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

 

Lakatos, I. (1970). Falsification and the methodology of scientific research programme. In I. Lakatos & A. Musgrave (Eds.), Criticisms and the growth of knowledge, Cambridge University Press.

 

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Mackey, L.D. (1971). Development of understanding about the nature of Science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 8(1) 57-66.

 

Ogunniyi, M.B. (1982). An analysis of prospective science teachers’ understanding of the nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 19(1), 25-32.

 

Ogunniyi, M.B. (1983). Relative effect of a history/philosophy of science course on student teachers’ performance on two models of Science. Research in Science and Technological Education, 1, (2), 193-199.

 

Ogunniyi, M.B. and Pella, M.O. (1980). Conceptualization of Scientific concepts, laws, and theories held by Kwara State, Nigerian secondary school science teachers, Science Education, 64(5), 591-599.

 

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[1] Institute Journal of Studies in Education, 1 (3), pp.124-133, June 1995.