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Teaching and Learning Science

By the end of this topic, you should be able to: Explain the three major components of science; Describe the nature of science; List the steps in a scientific method; Explain the meaning of scientific literacy; and Differentiate between science and technology.


Why is it important for us to learn and understand what science is? Look at the advertisement in Figure 1.1. What does scientifically tested mean?


Figure 1.1: An example of a bread advertisement

If we know science, we would not be fooled by this advertisement. We would know how to evaluate information and make wise decision when it comes to our health. Before we go any further, do you think knowing science and knowing about science are the same? They are different. Knowing science deals with the theories, laws, generalisations, experiments and facts in science (Lee, Y. J. et al., 2004). In the meantime, knowing about science or scientific literacy can be described as thinking critically and reflectively about the cultural practices of science, the philosophy, the motivations, influences and frameworks behind the sciences. As a science teacher, you certainly need to master both components in order to facilitate effective teaching of this subject. Apart from that, you need to know about the nature of science, so that, you can prepare relevant science-related experiences for the development of science concepts and understanding.

Recall how science was taught when you were in primary school. Take time to list down the characteristics of the science lesson. Share it with your classmates.




What comes to your mind when someone mentions the word 'science'? Do you picture someone in a white lab coat? Someone watching stars using a telescope? A gardener tending to flowering bushes? Someone baking a cake? In spite of these differences, all of them are related to science (Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.2: Images of science Sources: http://www.majalahsains.com/ http://suddenvalley.com http://www.astronomy2009.org http://foodthought.org


Many people would associate science with a person in a white lab coat doing an experiment but what about the person looking at the stars by using the telescope? The gardener and the baker? The person looking at the stars by using the telescope is studying what makes up the star, while, the gardener is monitoring the growth of the plants. Meanwhile, the baker is trying to control the situation so that the cake will rise beautifully. They are all doing science. Science has many facets. Different individual would define science differently. The layperson might define science as a body of scientific information, the scientist might view it as procedures by which hypotheses are tested and a philosopher might regard science as a way of questioning the truthfulness of what we know. All of these views are valid, but each of them represents only a partial definition of science. If you explore the meaning of science, you may find the following definitions: Science is everywhere, using it all the time, scary, can be lethal, discovery, exploration, learning more, theories, hypothesis, interesting, exciting, expensive, profitable, intelligent, status (Fleer & Hardy, 1996) Knowledge about the structure and behaviour of the natural and physical world, based on facts you can prove (Oxford Dictionary) Systematic knowledge which can be tested and proven for its truth (Kamus Dewan) Science is a set of attitudes and a way of thinking on facts (B. F. Skinner, 2005) Science is the system of knowing about the universe through data collected by observation and controlled experimentation. As data are collected, theories are advanced to explain and account for what has been observed (Carin & Sund, 1989)

From the various definitions given above, you can conclude that science consists of three major elements: Processes (or methods) Products Human attitudes

Figure 1.3 shows the relationship among the three elements.


Figure 1.3: The relationship among the major elements of science

Now, let us read about each element in detail.


Science as a Process

Scientific knowledge does not come out from thin air. The body of knowledge is produced through the observations and experimentation being done by the scientist. This process has many different aspects and stages. For example, the astronomer will first observe carefully and maybe take measurements while gazing at the stars. Then, with the knowledge of the laws of physics, he or she will provide the basis of our understanding of our universe. Scientific skills are the tools used in doing the processes of science. Students will conduct the processes just like the scientist. Students observe objects and phenomena around them to understand the natural world. They will use empirical procedures and analyse the data to describe the science concepts. The science processes could also involve the formation of hypothesis, planning, collecting data and data interpretation before making a conclusion.



Science as a Product

The product of science is the body of knowledge of science facts, concepts, laws and theories. Figure 1.4 shows the relationships and the hierarchical order of the science products.

Figure 1.4: The science products

Now, let us look at Table 1.1 which explains each component in detail.


Table 1.1: The Science Products Science Products Science Facts Descriptions A scientific fact is the specific statement about existing objects or actual incidents. We use senses to observe the facts. There are two criteria that are used to identify a scientific fact: (a) (b) Science Concepts It is directly observable; and It can be demonstrated at any time.

A concept is an abstraction of events, objects, or phenomena that seem to have certain properties or attributes in common. Birds, for example, possess certain characteristics that set them apart from reptiles and mammals. Principles and Laws also fall into the general category of a concept but in a broad manner. These higher order ideas are used to describe what exists through empirical basis. For example, Bernoullis principle and Newton laws of motion. Scientists use theories to explain patterns and forces that are hidden from direct observation. The Kinetic theory explains how the molecules in a solid, liquid and gas move.

Science Laws And Principles

Science Theories


Science as Attitudes

The third element in science is attitudes and values. Scientists are persons trained in some field of science who study phenomena through observation, experimentation and other rational, analytical activities. They use attitudes, such as being honest and accurate in recording and validating data, systematic and being diligent in their work. Thus, when planning teaching and learning activities, teachers need to inculcate scientific attitudes and values to the students. For example, during science practical work, the teacher should remind students and ensure that they carry out their experiments in a careful, cooperative and honest manner. Teachers need to plan well for effective inculcation of scientific attitudes and noble values during science lessons. They should examine all related learning outcomes and suggested teaching-learning activities that provide opportunities for the inculcation of scientific attitudes and noble values. This can be referred to in any School Science Curriculum Specification.


1. Re-read the definitions of science given by various sources. In your own words, explain the meaning of science. Is the statement the earth rotates on its axis a scientific concept, principle or theory? What are the three major elements of science?



With your partner, draw a mind map that summarises your definition of science.



In this subtopic, we will briefly discuss the nature of science. It refers to the main principles and ideas which provide a description of science methods and inquiry as well as the characteristics of scientific knowledge or products. You should read and understand all of these. Otherwise, it will result in your students learning distorted views about how science is conducted. Some points regarding the nature of science are as follows: (a) Scientific knowledge is not absolute but tentative The scientific knowledge we know today, may not be true in the future. Change is inevitable because new observations may disprove the current knowledge. For example, previously we learn that there are nine planets in our solar system but now the scientist communities have agreed that there are only eight planets. Scientific knowledge is durable Although scientific knowledge is tentative, most scientific knowledge is durable. As technology improves, new findings are added to the field and this will lead to the modification of current ideas. Eventually the ideas become more refine, precise and widely accepted by the scientific community. So, we seldom see strong theories being rejected altogether.




Science cannot provide complete answers to all questions Science cannot answer all questions. Issues relating to moral, ethical, aesthetic, social and metaphysical questions cannot be answered by science method. Why? The reason is ideas and answers relating to science must be supported by concrete evidence. Hence, there is no scientific method to prove that belief on moral issues or metaphysical questions can be false. Scientists are particularly objective Scientists are no different in their level of objectivity as other professions. They have to be very careful and thorough when carrying out experiments, collecting data, analysing the results and making a valid conclusion based on the results. However scientists are human beings too and they can make mistakes. So when they conduct experiments, the results may not always give a valid explanation as mistakes can occur due to human error. For example, when interpreting the data, bias can occur as the scientist may interpret using his or her values and beliefs which may not be the values and beliefs of the scientific communities. The world is understandable In order to explain the phenomena that happen around us, scientists presume that the things and events in the universe occur in consistent patterns. Thus, the phenomena are comprehensible through careful and systematic study. They also believe that through the use of the intellect, and with the aid of instruments that extend the senses, people can discover patterns in all of nature.



Tick [ ] the correct statements. (a) (b) (c) (d) Scientific knowledge is static. Scientific knowledge is durable. Science cannot provide complete answers to all questions. Scientists are particularly objective.





The scientific method as shown in Figure 1.5 is a process for experimentation that is used to explore observations and answer questions. Scientists use the scientific method to search for cause and effect relationships in nature.

Figure 1.5: The scientific method Source: http://www.experiment-resources.com/what-is-the-scientific-method.html

Now, have a look at the following Table 1.2 that shows the steps of the scientific method in detail.



Table 1.2: Steps of the Scientific Method Steps of the Scientific Method Ask question x Descriptions You should start the experiment by asking questions about the problem you want to investigate. Start the questions with 5W and 1H what, when, who, which, where and how. Finally you should summarise what you want to investigate in the form of a testable question. Then only can you get the answer through the scientific method. In order to understand the questions that you want to investigate, you probably need to collect information from various sources. This will help you to understand the concepts surrounding your investigation, thus helping you to plan in solving the problem. A hypothesis is an educated guess about how things work: "If _____[I do this] _____, then _____[this]_____ will happen." You should construct the hypothesis in a way to help you answer your original question. You then design your investigation to collect enough data. You must remember to plan your experiment to be a fair test. You conduct a fair test by making sure that you change only one factor at a time, while keeping all other conditions unchanged. You should also repeat your experiments several times to minimise error. Here, you analyse the data collected and relate your findings with your hypothesis. If the data support your hypothesis then you accept the hypothesis. If not, then probably you need to re-examine your hypothesis and start the entire process again. Finally, you want to share your findings with your friends. You should write your report to include all the various elements in your experiment. You should use various tools to display your data such as data table, graphs and diagram, so that the findings are clearly communicated to others.

Do background research

Construct a hypothesis

x Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment x x x

x Analyse your data and draw a conclusion x x

Communicate your results

x x x



You must remember that the steps in the scientific method described in Table 1.2 are cyclical, meaning that you do not just move from one step to another in a linear way. The reason for this is that information or thinking always changes. Thus, scientists sometime need to back up and repeat the steps at any point during the process. This process is called an iterative process. The scientific method is not only used to solve scientific problems. It can be applied in solving problems that you encounter in your everyday life. The systematic way of solving a problem could help you to make decisions in your daily life. This is what we called scientific literacy as illustrated in Figure 1.6.

Figure 1.6: A definition of scientific literacy Source: Skamp (2004)

In other words, scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences. It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain and predict natural phenomena. A scientifically-literate person should be able to evaluate the quality



of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it. Scientific literacy also implies the capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and to apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately (National Science Education Standards, page 22). Why do you think we need to be scientifically literate? One of the main reasons is that the society we live in depends on an ever-increasing application of technology and the scientific knowledge that makes it possible. Decisions that we make every day have the capacity to affect energy consumption, our personal health, natural resources and the environmentultimately the well-being of ourselves, our community and the world. Individual decisions may not seem to be critical. However, when they are multiplied by 300 million people nationwide, or nearly 7 billion around the world, they have the power to change the face of the planet (Scearce, 2007).

You want to find out whether the amount of sunlight in a garden affect tomato size. Use Figure 1.5 and Table 1.2 to help you to plan the experiment and find the answer.

Do want to find out whether you are scientifically literate? Try answering the test below. Answer the questions before looking at the actual answers! Test Your Scientific Literacy! Richard Carrier (2001) Answer each question with 'true' if what the sentence most normally means is typically true and 'false' if it is typically false. 1. 2. Scientists usually expect an experiment to turn out a certain way. Science only produces tentative conclusions that can change.



3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. Science has one uniform way of conducting research called the scientific method. Scientific theories are explanations and not facts. When being scientific, one must have faith only in what is justified by empirical evidence. Science is just about the facts, not human interpretations of them. To be scientific one must conduct experiments. Scientific theories only change when new information becomes available. Scientists manipulate their experiments to produce particular results. Science proves facts true in a way that is definitive and final. An experiment can prove a theory true. Science is partly based on beliefs, assumptions and the nonobservable. Imagination and creativity are used in all stages of scientific investigations. Scientific theories are just ideas about how something works. A scientific law is a theory that has been extensively and thoroughly confirmed. Scientists education, background, opinions, disciplinary focus, and basic guiding assumptions and philosophies influence their perception and interpretation of the available data. A scientific law will not change because it has been proven true. An accepted scientific theory is a hypothesis that has been confirmed by considerable evidence and has endured all attempts to disprove it.

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A scientific law describes relationships among observable phenomena but does not explain them. Science relies on deduction (x entails y) more than induction (x implies y). Scientists invent explanations, models or theoretical entities. Scientists construct theories to guide further research. Scientists accept the existence of theoretical entities that have never been directly observed. Scientific laws are absolute or certain.

Source: www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/SciLit.html

Answers to Activity 1.3 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. T F F T T F F F 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. T F F T T F F T 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. F T T F T T T F

How you score: No wrong answer 1 wrong answer 2 wrong answers 3 wrong answers 4 wrong answers 5 wrong answers 6 wrong answers 7 wrong answers 8 or more wrong answers A+ A AB+ B BC D F





Look at the two ships in Figure 1.7. Can you see the differences? Why did the ship change from the traditional to the modern?


Traditional ship


Modern ship

Figure 1.7: Ships from different ages Source: http://scrapety.com http://www.titanic-titanic.com

The answer is as people become more intelligent they use their knowledge to improve the ship. They improved the engine, the type of the fuel and many other aspects so that the modern ship performs much more efficiently than the traditional ship. The use of knowledge to build and improve the modern ship is one example of technology.


What is Technology?

Did you know the word technology originated from the Greek term technologia which is made up of techne, meaning craft, and logia, meaning saying? The definition has evolved throughout history and now the word technology means different things to different people. Technology is a term that covers both the products created by human beings and the methods used to create those products. In simple term, technology refers to the way of doing something whether a product, such as machine, or a means of organisation. The products of technology have been around since a long time ago such as the invention of the wheel. In modern times the products could be as simple as a pen or more sophisticated like an iPhone.



The term technology is said to encompass a number of classes of technology as shown in Table 1.3.
Table 1.3: Classes of Technology Classes Technology as Objects Technology as Knowledge Technology as Activities Technology as a Process Technology as a Sociotechnical System Descriptions Tools, machines, instruments, weapons, appliances the physical devices of technical performance The know-how behind technological innovations What people do their skills, methods, procedures, routines Begins with a need and ends with a solution The manufacture and use of objects involving people and other objects in combination

Source: http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/trinity/watistec.html

The term science and technology always goes hand-in-hand, just like the horse and the carriage. So, is there a relationship between science and technology?


Relationship between Science and Technology

In general, science can be regarded as the enterprise that seeks to understand natural phenomena and to arrange these ideas into ordered knowledge. Meanwhile, technology involves the design of products and systems that affect the quality of life, using the knowledge of science where necessary. Science is intimately related to technology and society. For instance, science produces knowledge that results in useful applications through devices and systems. We have evidence of this all around us, from microwave ovens, to compact disc players, to computers. However, the understanding of technology as the application of science knowledge has been challenged by many people. Mayr (1976) said . . . practical

usable criteria for making sharp neat distinctions between science and technology do not exist.
Technology is marked by different purposes, different processes, different relationship to established knowledge and a particular relationship to specific contexts of activity. Change in the material environment is the explicit purpose of technology but that is not the case with science. Science, is concerned with the



understanding of nature to bring about solutions that are more or less effective from different points of view.

In your own words, define technology.

In a group of three to four people, select two current inventions that have been said to improve and benefit mankind. List the positive and negative effects of using these inventions.

The three elements of science are products, processes and attitudes. The product of science is the body of knowledge of science which comprises facts, concepts, laws, principles and theories. The product of science is as a result of its processes and while the processes are carried out, the attitudes are practised. The processes of science can be done using scientific skills. Science problem can be solved using scientific method. Nature of science refers to the main principles and ideas which provide a description of science methods and inquiry as well as the characteristics of scientific knowledge or products. The scientific method is made up of a series of steps: ask question, do background research, construct a hypothesis, test your hypothesis by doing an experiment, analyse your data and draw a conclusion and communicate your results.



Science is related to technology. Technology involves the design of products and systems that affect the quality of life, using the knowledge of science where necessary.

Nature of science Science Science and technology Science attitude

Science process Science product Scientific literacy Scientific method

Carin, A., & Sund, R. B. (1989). Teaching science through discovery (6th ed.). Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth. Esler, W. K., & Esler, M. K. (2001). Teaching elementary science (8th ed.). USA: Belmont, Wadsworth/Thomson. Fleer, M., & Hardy. T. (1996). Science for children. Australia Harcourt Brace: Prentice Hall. Lee, Y. J. et al. (2004). Knowing science and knowing about science: Teaching primary science. Prentice Hall : Singapore. Martin, D. J. (2006). Elementary science methods: A constructivist approach. Methods for constructing understanding. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Mayr, O. (1976). The science-technology relationship as a historiographics problem. Technology and Culture 17. Science Buddies. (2011). Steps of the scientific method. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/mentoring/project_scientific_ method.shtml Shuttleworth, M. (2009). What is the scientific method? Retrieved April 21, 2011, from http://www.experiment-resources.com/what-is-the-scientificmethod.html Skamp, K. (2004). Teaching primary science constructively. Southbank, Victoria: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Washington.



The UK Technology Education Centre. What is technology? Retrieved April 22, 2011, from http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/trinity/watistec.html University of California Museum of Paleontology. Understanding science: What is science? Retrieved April 20, 2011, from http://undsci.berkeley. edu/article/whatisscience_01 Wolfs, F. L. H. (2004). Introduction to scientific method. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from http://teacher.nsrl.rochester.edu/phy_labs/AppendixE/ AppendixE. html.