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Abstract

Helping students develop informed views of nature of science (NOS) has been and continues to be a central goal for kindergarten through Grade 12 (K–12) science education. Since the early 1960s, major efforts have been undertaken to enhance K–12 students and science teachers' NOS views. However, the crucial component of assessing learners' NOS views remains an issue in research on NOS. This article aims to (a) trace the development of a new open-ended instrument, the Views of Nature of Science Questionnaire (VNOS), which in conjunction with individual interviews aims to provide meaningful assessments of learners' NOS views; (b) outline the NOS framework that underlies the development of the VNOS; (c) present evidence regarding the validity of the VNOS; (d) elucidate the use of the VNOS and associated interviews, and the range of NOS aspects that it aims to assess; and (e) discuss the usefulness of rich descriptive NOS profiles that the VNOS provides in research related to teaching and learning about NOS. The VNOS comes in response to some calls within the science education community to go back to developing standardized forced-choice paper and pencil NOS assessment instruments designed for mass administrations to large samples. We believe that these calls ignore much of what was learned from research on teaching and learning about NOS over the past 30 years. The present state of this line of research necessitates a focus on individual classroom interventions aimed at enhancing learners' NOS views, rather than on mass assessments aimed at describing or evaluating students' beliefs. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 39: 497–521, 2002