A case study of South Africa's teachers' understandings of the nature of science and classroom instructional practices.

Beauchamp, Nondyebo Julia
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This study investigated South Africa’s secondary school teachers’ understandings of the nature of science (NOS) in relation to their instructional practices. The participants were three Grade 10 Physical Science teachers conveniently selected from three schools in the Gauteng province of South Africa. Teacher understandings of the nature of science were elicited through semi-structured interviews. The core questions for the interviews were adapted from the Views of Nature of Science Questionnaire (VNOS) – Form C developed by Abd-El-Khalick, Lederman, Bell and Schwartz (2002). The nature of science tenets explored were: what is science?: the role and purpose of experiments in science: the difference between scientific theories and laws in science and how scientists settle scientific disputes. Teacher instructional practices were ascertained through semi-structured interviews and lesson observations. The results were analyzed using a combination of typological analysis and interpretive analysis. These results show that on the selected NOS tenets, the sampled teachers hold a mixture of naïve and sophisticated understandings. These understandings are, however, largely naïve. It was found that the teachers only teach about NOS implicitly. None of the teachers was found to explicitly teach about the NOS. It also came out that the teachers were experiencing difficulties in both interpreting and implementation of Learning Outcome 3 of South Africa’s new science curriculum. It is concluded that the interaction between teachers’ NOS understandings and their instructional practices occurs without the teachers being aware of it, i.e. unconsciously. Recommendations for teaching, curriculum implementation and future research are suggested.
Nature of science, Instructional practices, Teachers, Scientific literacy, Positivism, Constructivism, Curriculum, Learning outcomes