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Towards a Philosophically and a Pedagogically Reasonable Nature of Science Curriculum Open Access


Other title
critical thinking
science curriculum
science education
learning progressions
nature of science
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Yacoubian, Hagop A.
Supervisor and department
Shanahan, Marie-Claire (Secondary Education)
Norris, Stephen (Educational Policy Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Jenkins, Frank (Secondary Education)
Nocente, Norma (Secondary Education)
Pegg, Jerine (Elementary Education)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This study, primarily theoretical in nature, explores a philosophically and pedagogically reasonable way of addressing nature of science (NOS) in school science. NOS encompasses what science is and how scientific knowledge develops. I critically evaluate consensus frameworks of NOS in school science, which converge contentious philosophical viewpoints into general NOS-related ideas. I argue that they (1) lack clarity in terms of how NOS-related ideas could be applied for various ends, (2) portray a distorted image of the substantive content of NOS and the process of its development, and (3) lack a developmental trajectory for how to address NOS at different grade levels. As a remedy to these problems, I envision a NOS curriculum that (1) explicates and targets both NOS as an educational end and NOS as a means for socioscientific decision making, (2) has critical thinking as its foundational pillar, and (3) provides a developmental pathway for NOS learning using critical thinking as a progression unit. Next, I illustrate a framework for addressing NOS in school science referred to as the critical thinking - nature of science (CT-NOS) framework. This framework brings together the first two of the three elements envisioned in the NOS curriculum. I address the third element by situating the CT-NOS framework in a developmental context, borrowing from the literature on learning progressions in science and using critical thinking as a progression unit. Finally, I present an empirical study of experienced secondary science teachers’ views of a NOS lesson prepared using the CT-NOS framework. The teachers attended a professional development workshop at which the lesson, and the characteristics of the CT-NOS framework, were presented. The analysis of the qualitative data revealed that most teachers found the lesson to be somewhat feasible for a secondary science classroom, useful or somewhat useful to their students, and interesting. The teachers focused on 14 features of the lesson in their judgments and recommendations. The study revealed a number of teacher challenges generally related to critical thinking and its teaching as well as to the distinction between critical thinking about NOS and critical thinking with NOS.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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