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South African Journal of Education

On-line version ISSN 2076-3433
Print version ISSN 0256-0100


DUDU, Washington T. Exploring South African high school teachers' conceptions of the nature of scientific inquiry: a case study. S. Afr. j. educ. [online]. 2014, vol.34, n.1, pp.1-19. ISSN 2076-3433.

The paper explores conceptions of the nature ofscientific inquiry (NOSI) held by five teachers who were purposively and conveniently sampled. Teachers' conceptions of the NOSI were determined using a Probes questionnaire. To confirm teachers' responses, a semi-structured interview was conducted with each teacher. The Probes questionnaire was based on six tenets of the nature of scientific inquiry but only three tenets are presented in this paper, namely: (1) scientists use a variety of methods to conduct scientific investigations; (2) scientific knowledge is socially and culturally embedded; and (3) scientific knowledge is partly the product of human creativity and imagination. The study found that the teachers held mixed NOSI conceptions. These conceptions werefluid and lacked coherence, ranging from static, empiricist-aligned to dynamic, constructivist-oriented conceptions. Although all participants expressed some views that were consistent with current, acceptable conceptions of NOSI, some held inadequate (naïve) views on the crucial three NOSI tenets. The significance of this study rests in recommending explicit teaching of NOSI duringpre-service and in-service training which enables teachers to possess informed conceptions about NOSI. With these informed conceptions, teachers may internalise the instructional importance of the NOSI which, in turn, may help avoid the lack of attention to NOSI currently evidenced in teachers' instructional decisions. This might result in teachers' orientations shifting towards an explicit inquiry-based approach from that of an implicit science process and discovery approach.

Keywords : informed views; naïve views; nature of scientific inquiry; NOSI tenets; scientific inquiry; scientific investigations; scientific method; teacher conceptions.

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