Do science teachers know what science is?
Apparently only a few. James Williams has an interesting article in Science on the topic. It begins:
As a science educator, I train science graduates to become science teachers. Over the past two years I’ve surveyed their understanding of key terminology and my findings reveal a serious problem. Graduates, from a range of science disciplines and from a variety of universities in Britain and around the world, have a poor grasp of the meaning of simple terms and are unable to provide appropriate definitions of key scientific terminology. So how can these hopeful young trainees possibly teach science to children so that they become scientifically literate? How will school-kids learn to distinguish the questions and problems that science can answer from those that science cannot and, more importantly, the difference between science and pseudoscience?
Here are some of the data from the 74 graduates that I’ve surveyed to date:
• 76% equated a fact with ‘truth’ and ‘proven’
• 23% defined a theory as ‘unproven ideas’ with less than half (47%) recognizing a theory as a well evidenced exposition of a natural phenomenon
• 34% defined a law as a rule not to be broken, and forty-one percent defined it as an idea that science fully supports.
• Definitions of ‘hypothesis’ were the most consistent, with 61% recognizing the predictive, testable nature of hypotheses.
The results show a lack of understanding of what scientific theories and laws are. And the nature of a ‘fact’ in science was not commonly understood, with only 11% defining a fact as evidence or data. Here are just a few of their definitions of a scientific theory: “An idea based on a little evidence, not fact”; “an idea about something, not necessarily true”; “unproven ideas.”…