WHAT DO PRIMARY STUDENTS KNOW ABOUT SCIENCE, SCIENTISTS AND HOW THEY DO THEIR WORK?
BARTELS, SELINA L.
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The teaching of scientific literacy is the primary goal of elementary science education. Scientific literacy is composed of the overall understanding of what science is and how scientific knowledge is developed. The purpose of this study was to see if elementary students’ understandings of science, scientists and how scientists do their work changes from grade one to grade five of elementary school. Furthermore, the study attempts to determine whether there is a difference in scientific literacy between students taught using a textbook curriculum versus a kit-based curriculum. The study draws on a sample of 338 students from 18 different classrooms situated in six different schools in both urban and suburban areas of a large Midwestern city. Students’ understandings of science, scientists and how they do their work was measured through a valid and reliable oral protocol entitled Young Children’s Views of Science (YCVS) (Lederman, J., Bartels, Lederman, & Ganankkan, 2014). The YCVS assesses students’ understandings of the aspects of scientific inquiry (SI) and the nature of science (NOS) that young elementary students are able to understand. These aspects are; science, scientists, multiple methods, observation/inference, begins with a question, empirical, subjectivity, tentativeness and creativity. The YCVS was administered orally for grade one students, and a paper-and-pencil version was given to grades three and five. Twenty percent of the students in grade three and five were interviewed to ensure the proper interpretation of their YCVS responses. Responses to the YCVS were analyzed and students were given a rating of no answer, inadequate, mixed or informed for each aspect assessed on the YCVS. Frequency data was totaled for each grade level of each school. In order to determine if significant gains were made between the grade levels a Fisher’s exact test was run between each grade (one and three, three and five and one and five); significance of < 0.05 was selected. Fisher’s exact test was selected because the data were categorical with low frequencies for some categories. Additionally, a comparison between the kit-based curriculum schools and the textbook-based curriculum schools was made for each of the aspects of NOS and SI assessed in this study. Results indicated that there are very few gains in NOS and SI understandings between grades one and five in the schools included in this study. None of the schools in this study made significant gains for all of the nine aspects measured in this study. Only two schools made significant (p< 0.05) gains in five or more aspects of NOS/SI. The other four schools in this study made gains in fewer than four aspects. Two schools had a significant (p<0.05) decrease in understandings for more than one aspect. Examining curriculum’s affect on NOS and SI understandings, understanding of only one aspect was significantly impacted by curriculum differences. Subjectivity understanding was impacted by kit-based instruction. Overall, students’ understandings of science, scientists and how they do their work did not significantly change from grade one to grade five regardless of what type of curriculum they followed. This study shows that students’ scientific literacy is not being developed throughout elementary school. Therefore, the teaching of scientific literacy in an explicit and reflective manner should be the focus of preservice elementary school education.