“It's the nature of the beast”: The influence of knowledge and intentions on learning and teaching nature of science*


  • *

    We thank Fouad Abd-El-Khalick and Randy Bell for their helpful discussions during the data collection and analysis of this study.


This study examined the knowledge, intentions, and instructional practices of two beginning secondary science teachers as they learned the subject matter of nature of science (NOS) and attempted to teach NOS during their student teaching experience and during their first year of full-time teaching. This is a case study comparison of two success stories. However, the reasons for and levels of success are as varied as the factors that influence teaching practice. Details of the participants' progression, along with descriptions of the challenges they faced in the learning and teaching of NOS offer insight into the complexity of the fulfillment of one's instructional intentions. The results of the study suggest that depth of NOS understanding, subject-matter knowledge, and the perceived relationship between NOS and science subject matter affected the participants' learning and teaching of NOS. The views of NOS as an inherent part of all science content or as “the nature of the beast” facilitated the inclusion of NOS within traditional science content lessons. The participant with the more extensive science background, who also held well-developed NOS views, was better able to address NOS throughout his teaching. His subject-matter knowledge enabled him to use a variety of examples to enhance NOS instruction. The other participant's more limited subject-matter knowledge and compartmentalized view of NOS seemed to inhibit her incorporation of relevant NOS topics within a traditional science content. The importance of subject-matter knowledge, NOS knowledge, and NOS instruction intentions to the development of pedagogical content knowledge for NOS and the actualization of intentions in the classroom are discussed. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 39: 205–236, 2002