What ‘ideas-about-science’ should be taught in school science? A Delphi study of the expert community.

Collins, Sue, Osborne, Jonathan, Ratcliffe, Mary, Millar, Robin and Rick, Duschl (2001) What ‘ideas-about-science’ should be taught in school science? A Delphi study of the expert community. In, American Educational Research Association Conference, Seattle, USA, 10 - 14 Apr 2001. 28pp.


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The science that is encountered by adults, whether through the media or through work contexts, typically presents questions, decisions and the need for prioritisation. There is general agreement that, in order to respond to the questions, decisions and prioritisation, people need to know something about the functioning of science itself. We term this knowledge ‘ideas-about-science’. However, there is little agreement about the content that might be included in school science curricula to address ‘ideas-about-science’. The study presented in this paper therefore addresses a fundamental question: What ideas-about-science should be taught in school curricula? The question is addressed empirically, by the use of a three stage Delphi study. The sample for the study was a group of leading and acknowledged experts in science education, science, history, philosophy and sociology of science, science teaching, and activities to promote the public understanding of science. Five people were recruited from each of these groups, producing a sample of twenty five ‘experts’.

In the first round, participants were asked what they thought students should be taught about the methods of science, the nature of scientific knowledge and the processes and practices of the scientific community. Their open-ended responses to these questions were then analysed and coded reflexively and iteratively to generate a set of 30 themes in the data. For each theme, a summary statement was developed that captured the broad intent of the participant’s responses. These themes, and a selection of relevant anonymised arguments for their incorporation, were then fed back to the participants for comment and rating on a 5 point Likert scale in the second round. This process reduced the themes to a subset of seventeen. For the final round, these were then returned for comment, evaluation and a final rating, together with participants’ arguments for their significance. Whilst some of the themes, and the ideas they represent, are already a feature of existing school science curricula, many others are not. The findings of this research therefore present an authoritative challenge as to whether existing practice in school science represents the views and values of the broad community engaged in science and science education.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: science education, nature of science, science curriculum, delphi study
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Education > Professional Practice & Pedagogy
ePrint ID: 58275
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2008
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:39
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/58275

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