Nature of Science and Science Learning
by Loris Chen
In a position statement, the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) asserted that the “Nature of science (NOS) is a critical component of scientific literacy that enhances students’understandings of science concepts and enables them to make informed decisions about scientifically-based personal and societal issues.” (Nature of Science, 2020)
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), from which the New Jersey Student LearningStandards for Science are derived, embed NOS into disciplinary core ideas (DCis) through relatedscience and engineering practices (SEPs), and crosscutting concepts (CCCs).
In the position statement, NSTA cites theory and evidence from research to support the conclusionsthat NOS should be
● Explicitly taught through student engagement in SEPs and CCs in the context of DCIs,● Explicitly assessed using student performance expectations as a guide for evaluating learningand understanding of NOS, and
● Considered a unifying theme across K-12 grade levels and science disciplines.
Appendix H of the Next Generation Science Standards: For States by States (2013) lists eight ideasabout NOS that are foundations of SEPs and CCCs. Appendix H also outlines a NOS matrix of student learning expectations by DCI and grade level. Table 1 summaries the connection between the eight understandings and the NGSS SEPs and CCCs.
Table 1. Eight Understandings of NOS
Science and Engineering Practices
● Scientific Investigations Use a Variety of Methods
● Scientific Knowledge is Based on
● Scientific Knowledge is Open to
Revision in Light of New Evidence
● Scientific Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena
● Science is a Way of Knowing
● Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems
● Science is a Human Endeavor
● Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World
So What Does This Mean for Teachers?
The NOS Matrix can be distilled down to students learning science as scientists. Student-as-scientists is the core concept of what NSTA calls Sensemaking (Sensemaking, 20220). The four equity-centered components of Sensemaking are phenomena, student ideas, practices, and science ideas - the elements of Open SciEd. Education research cited in the Nature of Science (2020) indicates that effective science instruction begins with teachers who understand the principle ideas of the nature of science.
We Need A Map
In 2020, NSTA published The Atlas of the Three Dimensions (The Atlas) (Willard, 2020). In The Atlas, Ted Willard offers teachers a guide to effective three-dimensional science instruction. Chapter 7 of the Atlas addresses NOS. Each of the eight ideas is examined through text and a map of student learning expectations by grade level. Given that The Atlas was released the year instruction, as we knew, it took unexpected twists and turns, it’s worth revisiting Willard’s work. Over the next two NJSTA Newsletters, we’ll explore the NOS SEPS and NOS CCCs through the lens of The Atlas.
Nature of Science. (2020). NSTA. https://www.nsta.org/nstas-official-positions/nature-scienceSensemaking. (2022.). NSTA. https://www.nsta.org/sensemaking
States, N. L. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States (SPI). National Academies Press.
Willard, T. (2020). NSTA ATLAS OF THE THREE DIMENSIONS. National Science Teaching Association.