Research Perspective in Physical science education
(Only for M.Ed Students, Teacher Educators, and Educational Researchers)
Lecturer in Physical Science, Arafa Institute for Teacher Education
Science education is a genuinely inter-disciplinary discipline. Clearly, science is a major reference discipline but there are competencies in various other disciplines which are also needed. The interdisciplinary nature of science education is responsible for the particular challenges to carry out science education research and development. Science education is the discipline dealing with teaching and learning science in schools and outside schools. Science education research includes selection, legitimation and educational reconstruction of topics to be learned, selection and justification of general aims of teaching and learning science, as well as instructional sequencing that takes the learners’ cognitive, affective and social preconditions into account. A further domain of science education work is research-based development as well as evaluation of teaching and learning approaches and materials.
Back ground of Research in Physical science Education
About 40 years ago science education came to be recognized around the world as an independent field of research. Motivation for this research comes from the need to improve the practice of science education. We started by asking,“ which methods of teaching work better than others? ”. After that new teaching aids were tried out, lecture methods were compared with activity-based teaching, and so on. In general, science education research has developed substantially in the past decades (cf. White, 2001). Science education has grown to a truly international community with the number of researchers still increasing. Interestingly, the percentage of female researchers has also increased substantially (White, 2001, 465). The number of journals is still rising, the number of issues per year of the journal has grown also substantially, and the same is true for the number of international conferences and books.
Research perspective in Physical science Education
The four aspects that I believe have defined science education research over the past 30 years are
(1) The huge increase in international professional research activities,
(2) A constant call for more relevant science education,
(3) An increase in the diversity of the types of research being conducted in Science education, and
(4) A need for a greater understanding of the relationships between policy and practice and a realistic expectation of what science education research can contribute to practice.
(1) Increased international professional research activities.
Ø Increase in publications regarding science education
I shall consider firstly the increase in English-language publications in science education and secondly the increase in the range of scholars involved in educational research. Increase in English-language publications. In the past 30 years there has been a large increase in international professional activity in science education research (as is illustrated by this conference), resulting in an increased output of publications in science education research from a wider range of nations (as is illustrated by the number of new journals, especially in the English language), and an increased amount of professional development initiatives (as is illustrated by increasing interactions of professional societies, employers and universities and the growing importance of the roles of science teachers’ associations in many countries). But it has not always been like this. The United States was among the first nations to treat science education and research in science education in particular as a serious field of scholarship long before other nations; the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) was established in 1928.
Ø Increase in the range of scholars involved in educational research
In the past 30 years, there has been considerable increasing interest in the findings from science education research by physicists, chemists and biologists as well as an increasing interest in science education research at prestigious science conferences such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
(2) Calls for more relevant science education curricula and assessment.
Throughout the past 30 years, there has been great interest in providing a relevant science education for school-aged youth as is illustrated by a growing interest in appropriate curricula offerings in science for post-compulsory schooling and different forms of assessment in science. The major concern has been the achievement of scientific literacy.
Ø The recognition of culture
The notion of culture and what this term means in the context of classroom teaching and learning and how a better understanding of this phenomenon can move science education research forward is an area needing further research. Indeed, the initial research on cultures was not conducted by science educators; rather science educators have become aware of this research and are using it to interpret life in schools and classrooms and thereby gain a better understanding of activities engaged in by teachers and students (Cobern, 1998)
Ø Concerns for post-compulsory schooling and inclusivity
In most nations, there are increasing numbers of students staying on beyond compulsory leaving age (typically 15-16 years old) and over the past two decades at least there have been consistent calls for a curriculum to meet their particular needs. Consequently, there is a growing interest in post-compulsory schooling and what this means for an appropriate curriculum in science education. Linked with this concern is an interest in scientific literacy and assessment at all levels of formal schooling and beyond.
(3) Increase in the diversity of the types of research being conducted in science education.
Science education research is not conducted within one paradigm because there are too many fundamental differences about the nature of science education. Indeed, science education is not quite a research paradigm there is too much disagreement at a fundamental level.
Ø Research on the status of science teaching
In non-western countries, science teachers have high status but the remuneration is very poor. In western nations, status of science teaching is declining and science teaching is no longer a career of first choice. This scenario is a problem because of the ageing workforce of science teachers and there would appear to be a lack of well-qualified people wishing to enter the science teaching profession. There is concerted action in some countries to address this problem by encouraging scientists to teach after a very short period of induction into the profession. Research shows that the results so far are mixed at best. As a consequence, there are problems with replacing current teachers and concerns about the viability of subjects like physics in many schools. Similar problems exist at the tertiary level with many universities no longer having separate departments of physics and chemistry.
Ø Research on the impact of technology on teaching
Research on the impact of technology on teaching is of key importance as is illustrated by the review by Linn (2003) which looked at this impact in terms of science texts and lectures, science discussions and collaboration, data collection and representation, science visualisation and science simulation and modelling. As the review showed, there is an increasing use of computers in schools but more research is still needed to investigate how students learn science with computers? Similarly, there is an increasing use of on-line resources but how beneficial are these to learning science and is it better to learn science in a synchronous and asynchronous manner with on-line resources? Related to this issue are the problems faced by teachers when using computers in their teaching. Some schools require students to have lap-top computers and research are needed to demonstrate whether or not this is the way to improve/enhance learning.
Ø Concerns about scientific literacy
Science education reforms in a number of countries (for example, Australia, New Zealand, England, and the USA) promote a standards-based definition of scientific literacy for all people such that they can understand science and apply the big ideas to realistic problems and issues involving science, technology, society and environment (Hand, Prain and Yore, 2001). At the same time researchers are examining the specific roles of reading and writing in science education (Yore, Bisanz and Hand, 2003).
(4) Science education influencing policy and practice.
Ø Gap between research and practice
As a domain, science education research grows by its own activities and also by being open to outside influences. However, looking at the world from an insider’s view of science education research, occasionally we must ask ourselves what lasting and significant influences are we having in related academic domains? Certainly there produce a lot of good research in a range of high quality journals that are recognized by the science education international community. But how much does this body of research really influence persons in academic domains other than their own?!
The research findings seldom reach the students/schools/administrators/policy makers or to whom whatever it is concerned.
Domains of research in Physical science Education
The major domains of research in physical science education are
(1) Analysis of Content Structure
a) Subject matter clarification
b) Analysis of educational significance.
(2) Research on Teaching and Learning
(a) Student learning :(students’ pre-instructional conceptions, representations and beliefs, conceptual change; problem solving; affective issues of learning, like attitudes, motivation, interests, self-concepts; gender differences..);
(b) Teaching :(teaching strategies; classroom situations and social interactions; language and discourse);
(c) Teachers’ thinking and actions: (teachers’ conceptions of science concepts and principles, science processes, the nature of science; their views of the teaching and learning process; teacher professional development…);
(d) Instructional media and methods (lab work; multi-media; various further media and methods);
(e) Student assessment: (methods to monitor students’ achievement and the development )
(3) Development and Evaluation of Instruction / Instructional design
(4) Research on Curricular Issues and Science Education Policies
(5) Evaluation and dissemination of innovations introduced into the school system.
(6) Scientific literacy, standards, systemic reforms (quality development)
(7) Teacher professional development.
Areas of research in Physical science Education (Indian context)
The review of researches in science education done in India has been published by the Regional College of Education, Ajmer. The following table gives the status of science education researches done at M.Ed. and Ph.D. levels in India.
No. of Studies
1. Science Curriculum
2. Methods of teaching
3. Instructional materials
5. Teacher training
• (Research in Science Education, NCERT and Regional College of Education, 2009)
The above table shows the areas which have been neglected so far. Most of the research studies have been conducted in the area of evaluation and very few in the areas of methods of teaching and teacher training. Even in the area of evaluation most of the studies done are on achievement tests. Although there is need for more studies in the area of evaluation in science education, more attention is needed in the areas of curriculum development, methods of teaching and instructional materials development. Research is also needed in new innovations in science education which might help improving the quality of science education at different levels of education and making it more relevant of the needs and requirements of the children, the community and the country.
Areas in which more Research is needed
1) Science Learning
Ø Perspectives of science learning
Ø Student conceptions and conceptual learning in science
Ø Language and science learning
Ø Attitudinal and motivational constructs in science learning
Ø Classroom learning environments
Ø Learning science outside of schools
2) Culture, Gender, Society, and Science Learning
Ø Science education and student diversity: Race/ethnicity, language, culture, socioeconomic status.
Ø Issues in science learning: An international perspective
Ø Special needs and talents in science learning
Ø Gender issues in science education
Ø Science learning in urban and rural settings
3) Science Teaching
Ø General instructional methods and strategies
Ø Science laboratories
Ø Discourse in science classrooms
Ø Technology and Science classroom inquiry
Ø Elementary science teaching
Ø Interdisciplinary science teaching
Ø Environmental education and Science
4) Curriculum and Assessment in Science
Ø Science Literacy
Ø History of curriculum reform in science education
Ø Scientific inquiry and the science curriculum
Ø Research on the nature of science
Ø Perspectives in the science curriculum
Ø Systemic reform in science education
Ø Science program evaluation
Ø Classroom assessment of science learning
Ø Large scale assessment in science education
5) Science Teacher Education
Ø Science teacher as learner
Ø Science teacher attitudes and beliefs
Ø Research on science teacher knowledge
Ø Learning to teach science
Ø Teacher professional development in science
Ø Science teachers as researchers
Some topics to be explored
(Topics that can be taken for M.Ed Dissertations with suitable changes)
1) Effects of existing curriculum of science on the development of scientific attitude in studies.
2) Formation of concepts in science in children at different grade levels.
3) Sequencing of science concepts in relation to the development stages of children.
4) Development of interdisciplinary science curriculum based on socio-economic problems of the country.
5) Effective methods of teaching science to rural children.
6) Impact of teacher training on the teaching efficiency of science teachers.
7) Utilization of community resources for teaching science.
8) Inventory of innovations in science education.
9) System analysis of science education at different levels of schooling.
10) Development source book on simple experiments using local materials.
11) Ancient Indian tradition and Science
12) Effectiveness of science teaching trough mass media such as radio and T.V.
13) Developing programmed materials/models in science for pupils and teachers.
14) Analysis of science text-books and other instructional materials
15) Feasibility and usefulness of mobile science laboratory and science library for school as well as for out-of-school science teaching to children.
16) Analysis of pre-service and in-service training programme’s for science teachers.
17) Effectiveness of practice teaching in terms of developing new skills and techniques of teaching science.
18) Developing evaluation instruments for affective and psychomotor domains.
19) Developing for the bibliography of science education research.
20) Spirituality and Science.
Review of some research studies in physical science education
1) Title: Concept Mapping in Science: A case study among students of standard 8th . (Year: 2013)
Conducted by: Dr. K.Remadevi, & Visakh Kumar, NSSTC, Changanassery
Methodology: Pre test - Post test equivalent group design.
Findings: Concept mapping is more effective than the conventional method of teaching. Concept mapping creates ‘minds-on’ environment in the classroom and fosters constructivism in Science learning.
2) Title: Effectiveness of constructivist approach on the achievement in science of 9th standard students.(Year: 2013)
Conducted by: Kadem Srinivas, University of Baroda
Methodology: Quasi Experimental design.
Findings: The study indicated that constructive approach is more effective than conventional method on the achievement of science.
3) Title: Effect of Audio visual Aids on Achievement in Physics in relation to creativity (Year: 2013)
Conducted by: Dr. Ram Mehar & Vipin Kumar, Punjab University
Methodology: Pre test - Post test equivalent group design.
Findings: Audio visual aids were found to attain significantly higher achievement scores as compared to conventional group. Performance of students in terms of creativity was found significant.
4) Title: A study of teaching aptitude, social adjustment and job satisfaction on secondary school science teachers (Year: 2011)
Conducted by: Mallikarjuna Reddy, Acharya Nagarjuna University
Methodology: Survey method.
Findings: The secondary school science teachers are having very high teaching aptitude. The rural teachers have a better teaching aptitude than their urban counterparts. The secondary school science teachers have an average level of social adjustment. The secondary school science teachers have average job satisfaction level.
5) Title: A study of the relationship between intelligence, scientific creativity, achievement motivation, home environment and acievement in science of higher secondary school pupils of Kerala. (2008)
Conducted by: Rosamma Philip, Mahatma Gandhi University
Methodology: Survey method.
Findings: The study indicate that Intelligence, Scientific Creativity, and Home Environment have close relationship with Achievement in Science. There exist very low relationship between Achievement Motivation and Achievement in Science of Higher Secondary School Students.
6) Title: Study habit and interest in science as correlates of achievement in physical science among secondary school pupils. (Year: 2006)
Conducted by: Manjula U, Calicut University
Methodology: Survey method (Correlation study)
Findings: There is significant relationship between Study habit and achievement in physics, similarly there exists significant relationship between Interest in science and Achievement in physical science.
7) Title: A formative Evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction through Science club in creating Scientific awareness in high school students. (Year: 2002)
Conducted by: N. Hema, Calicut University
Methodology: Experimental study
Findings: The study revealed the effectiveness of instruction through science club to develop scientific awareness in high school students. Educational status and monthly income of parents had no effect on scientific awareness of students instructed through science club.
8) Title: Preparation and validation of multimedia packages in the teaching of science to hearing impaired students of secondary schools (Year: 2001)
Conducted by: Nirmala Susan, Mahatma Gandhi University
Methodology: Experimental study.
Findings: The study indicated that multimedia packages are more effective than conventional method to hearing impaired students on the achievement of science.
Major Drawbacks of Science Education Research
According to Buch,
Ø Most of the studies lack quality and applicability.
Ø Most of them look more as essays or statistical jargons, which have doubtful reliability as well as relevance to the real situations in the schools.
Ø Sometimes the result of similar studies are contradictory
Ø There is tremendous duplication of studies in the same area and sometimes the same problem is studied by different persons in the same university or other universities.
Utilization of Science Education Research
Ø The results of these researches seldom reach the decision-makers, curriculum developers or teachers. All the research reports adorn the shelves of the university libraries.
Ø There is only few journals in India which is solely devoted to the researches in science education.
Ø Consequently, many a good research work done in various places neither reaches the consumer or other research workers.
Ø There should be a common platform for sharing.
A conception of science education research that is relevant for improving instructional practice has been presented in the previous sections. It turned out that science education research with this aim needs to draw on a rather large spectrum of competencies from various disciplines and demands to bring content issues and issues concerning learning this content into balance. Despite of all the developments in science education, curricula, assessment and research, there is still need for a greater understanding of the relationships between policy and practice and a realistic expectation of what science education research can contribute to practice. This certainly should be a major part of the work of science educators in the next decades.
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