Date of Graduation

8-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

William F. McComas

Committee Member

Catherine Wissehr

Second Committee Member

Ronna C. Turner

Third Committee Member

Susan Gauch

Abstract

This study was conducted to examine the inclusion of nature of science (NOS) in popular science writing to determine whether it could serve supplementary resource for teaching NOS. Four groups of documents published from 2001 to 2010 were included in the analysis: Scientific American, Discover magazine, winners of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books, and books listed in National Science Teacher Association's (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12.

First, computer analysis was performed to categorize passages in the selected documents based on their inclusions of NOS. Then, follow-up human analysis was conducted to assess the frequency, context, coverage, and accuracy of the inclusions of NOS within computer identified NOS passages. The results reveal that NOS was rarely addressed in selected document sets. About two to five passages explicitly addressing NOS were observed in every thousand passages. Interestingly, NOS is frequently addressed in the letters section of the two magazines. This result suggests that readers seem to be interested in the discussion of NOS-related issues. In the popular science books analyzed, NOS presentations are more likely to be aggregated in the beginning and the end of the book, rather than scattered throughout. The most commonly addressed NOS elements in the analyzed documents are "science and society" and "the empirical aspect of science." Only three inaccurate presentations of NOS were identified in all analyzed documents.

Unfortunately, the findings suggest that popular science writing generally may not be a good resource for science educators to search for materials for teaching NOS. Since both science textbooks and popular science writing are generally disappointing in their inclusion of NOS topics, it seems to be necessary to create new science curriculum with rich features in NOS.

Contrary to the disappointing findings on the presentation of NOS in popular science writing, the text mining technique used to identify NOS presentations demonstrated exciting performance. The successful application of the text mining technique in the current study invites more applications of such technique on the analysis of other aspects of science textbooks, popular science writing, or other materials involved in science teaching and learning.

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