The Case for Explicit Instruction of the Nature of Science in Secondary Science Education through the Incorporation of the History and Philosophy of Science


Richard Feynman, the celebrated physicist, is frequently attributed as saying that “philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.”  Professor Feynman taught at the California Institute of Technology for many years, but perhaps this experience did not afford him the best view of the general level scientific literacy of most people.  The inventive Feynman would likely be disappointed in the rigid nature of much pre-college science instruction, and he would definitely be disappointed in the lack of student understanding of the nature of science.  The Next Generation Science Standards emphasize the nature of science as one of their standards, but currently most pre-college science instructors do not address this learning target or only do so through the indirect approach of using inquiry lessons.  There is strong evidential support for including the explicit instruction of the philosophy of science and the history of science in pre-college science classrooms as a way of augmenting scientific literacy and enhancing student views on the nature of science.  This article discusses some of the potential benefits of this instruction and some of the obstacles that must be overcome to implement it.



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