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Nature of Science and Nature of Design


Understanding the Natures of Design & Science

Two Educational Goals`:  We want to help students improve their UNDERSTANDING of design & science, and their SKILLS in design & science.


Improved UNDERSTANDING:  Because "my original model of Science Process was a unifying synthesis of ideas, gathered from scholars in a wide range of fields," teachers can use it to explain the Nature of Science "from the perspectives of different disciplines: science, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, education."  We can help students understand a central concept — that THE Nature of Science does not exist, because the Nature of Science varies with context so it's a family of related variations on basic themes — by using One Framework + Many Elaborations to describe "a wide variety of actual scientific practices, and a wide range of views [by scholars who study science, and by teachers in their classrooms] about how to interpret the nature of science and the thinking of scientists."

Science and Design:  A similar teaching strategy can be used for the Nature(s) of Design.  And for understanding Science-and-Design relationships and mutual interactions, Science & Design (Engineering,...) - STS and more explains how an Objectives-and-Process approach, using Design Process, can be educationally useful by supplementing other approaches, such as those in Science Standards from 1996 and 2011-2013.  Due to the close relationships between Science and Design (because science is a special type of design) we can help students learn about the natures of Science & Design & Science-and-Design.


Improved SKILLS:  This is the main focus in a visual-and-verbal overview of Design Process and when we help students learn principles for Productive Thinking by Combining Creativity with Critical Thinking and Combining Cognition with Metacognition.


I.O.U. — Soon, maybe in late January, the rest of this page will be developed more thoroughly, and the introduction (above) might be revised.


[[ There is a summary of research evidence to support explicit teaching. ]]

The Effectiveness of Explicit Teaching

This section is an extension of the story below, about NSTA-and-NGSS, but all you really need to know is that [in mid-2012, when NSTA was criticizing NGSS] the new Science Standards "include Scientific & Engineering Practices, but not Nature of Science," and this omission [fixed in January 2013] "is criticized by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)."  Now you can read “the rest of the story” here:


... Fifth, if we decide that teaching the Nature of Science is a worthy goal, teaching it explicitly (which is more likely to occur if it's a standard) will be more effective.

NSTA explains, in September 2011:  "The rhetoric of the Framework calls for and seems to imply that students will understand why the practices are used by scientists, but experience tells us that unless the instruction is explicit, the knowledge of the purpose and reason for the practices will not be understood."  And later, in June 2012, "The claim that simply doing inquiry (engaging with scientific practices) will result in knowing about inquiry (a claim that knowledge about inquiry and nature of science would develop implicitly) is refuted by 50 years of empirical research."  This is followed by six references about the research.  [details about the research are in Experience plus Principles]


Below is an optional story about a discussion, in 2011-2012, between NSTA and NGSS.


Will "nature of science" be in the new K-12 Science Standards?

This section, describing a current controversy [but the "controversy" is now resolved because NGSS now includes the standards requested by NSTA, so this section needs to be updated] in the science education community, assumes you know the general context for developing Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), coordinated by Achieve.  Here is the specific context:

The first draft of NGSS (May 2012) includes Scientific & Engineering Practices, but not Nature of Science.  This omission is criticized by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) in their Feedback to Achieve (June 2012) as "NSTA’s most serious and profound concern" due to "the importance that the science education community places on the nature of science."


This omission by NGSS seems surprising, for five reasons:

First, the Nature of Science (NOS) was included in the 1996 National Science Education Standards as a part of three related areas — Science and Technology [to do and understand science & design], Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, History and Nature of Science — on pages 190-204.

Second, NSTA explains (in June 2012) that standards for NOS were in the first draft of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (July 2010) but not in the final version (July 2011), which led to criticism by NSTA (September 2011):  "While engaging in practices will provide students some understanding of some aspects of the nature of science, it falls short of what students need to know about the relationships between science, technology, and society and important episodes in the history of science."  Later, in June 2012, NSTA describes this omission as "a major weakness of the Framework."

Third, the final Framework (July 2011) and two papers accompanying the first draft of NGSS (May 2012) (links for all three) describe NOS and its importance, but these ideas are not included in the Performance Expectations of NGSS.  This omission led NSTA to say, in June 2012, "the failure to include them in the standards implies that it is not essential to address the nature of science."

Fourth, a logical solution has been ignored:  NSTA, in September 2011, described a logical way to include NOS by using parallel structures in Chapter 3 (Practices for Engineering, and Practices for Science) and Chapter 8 (Nature of Engineering, but currently not Nature of Science):  "Understanding the nature of science and scientific practices (in contrast to doing the practices in Chapter 3) would produce a parallel between nature of science and the nature of engineering design in Chapter 8 in the same way as the parallel outcomes for the practices of science and engineering have been accomplished in Chapter 3."  In June 2011, NSTA's "most serious" concern is their recommendation that "NGSS should include a section on Connections to the Nature and History of Science in a manner similar to the Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science [corresponding to Chapter 8 in the Framework]."

Fifth,... [continued above]



I.O.U. — Later (maybe in late January?) all of this page will be developed more fully, with more content and fewer loose ends.  It will include these ideas (currently they're just "notes to myself") that will be developed later:

NSTA noted the need to clearly delineate between what students are to know and be able to do and how they should be taught those things. [note to myself: I think this is covered in is.htm for "ideas & skills education"]

Although improving SKILLS is emphasized in most of this website, I think we can (and should) help students achieve both educational goals by explicitly teaching Design Process & Science Process.  When we do this, we directly improve their UNDERSTANDING of Design & Science, and (according to my claims in Experience + Reflection + Principles) also their SKILLS in Design & Science.

from NSTA (maybe to use? where? how?) - "there is a fundamental lack of understanding in the Framework on the nature and purpose of the practices. The practices in NGSS describe abilities, but there is also a critical need for an understanding of science as a human activity and how scientists work. In our recommendation following the release of the Framework, ....."