Improving science teachers’ conceptions of nature of science: A critical review of the literature

Fouad Abd-El-khalick, Norman G. Lederman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This paper aimed to review, and assess the 'effectiveness' of the attempts undertaken to improve prospective and practising science teachers' conceptions of nature of science (NOS). The reviewed attempts could be categorized into two general approches: implicit and explicit. Implicit attempts utilized science process-skills instruction or engagement in science-based inquiry activities to improve science teachers' conceptions of NOS. To achieve the same goal, explicit attempts used instruction geared towards various aspects of NOS and/or instruction that utilized elements from history and philosophy of science. To the extent that teachers' NOS conceptions were faithfully assessed by the instruments used in the reviewed studies, the explicit approach was relatively more effective in enhancing teachers' views. The relative ineffectiveness of the implicit approach could be attributed to two inherent assumptions. The first is that developing an understanding of NOS is an 'affective', as compared to a 'cognitive', learning outcome. The second ensuing assumption is that learners would necessarily develop understandings of NOS as a by-product of engaging in science-realated activities. However, despite the relative 'effectiveness' of the explicit approach, much is still required in terms of fostering among science teachers 'desired' understandings of NOS. The paper emphasizes that explicitness and reflectivness should be given prominence in any future attempts aimed at improving teachers' concepts of NOS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-701
Number of pages37
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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