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The Nature of Science in Science Teaching

David Eichinger
Purdue University


This course explores philosophical and sociological questions related to the scientific enterprise. The understandings developed are then applied to questions about teaching and learning science.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Small-group seminar

Course Context:

This course is one of two foundation courses in the science education graduate programs (MS and PhD)at Purdue. Students include those in science education programs in the College of Education as well as from science and engineering graduate programs in the Colleges of Science and Engineering.

Course Goals:

Students will develop an understanding of:
  • various philosophical positions on the nature of science
  • their own views of the nature of science
  • the roles of scientists, the greater society, culture, and gender in the creation and validation of scientific knowledge
  • students' and teachers' ideas about the nature of science
  • the implications of various perspectives on the nature of science for science teaching and learning

Course Features:

Teaching the Process of Science

As a graduate seminar, the course is heavily discussion-based In addition to active participation, course activities include a weekly journal based on each set of class readings as well as personal experiences related to the discussion topics, a book report based on an account of the scientific enterprise (e.g., "The Double Helix" or "A Feeling for the Organism"), and a term paper and poster presentation on a topic related to the nature of science and science teaching and learning.


Course grades are based on the activities described above and are determined as follows: Class participation = 25%, Journal assignment = 25%, Book Report= 20%, and Paper/presentation=30%


The nature of science in science teaching (Microsoft Word 85kB Jun27 09)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes:

Chalmers, A. F. (1999). What is this thing called Science? (3rd. ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
This book provides an excellent introduction to various epistemological perspectives on the nature of scientific knowledge. It does not assume any prior knowledge or coursework in philosophy or philosophy of science. This book serves as the primary source for the first part of the class focused on the nature of scientific knowledge.

In addition to the Chalmers book mentioned above, Thomas Kuhn's classic, "The structure of scientific revolutions" is also used when examining the nature of scientific knowledge. A variety of journal articles and book chapters from many different sources are used to address sociological issues in doing science and implications for science teaching and learning.