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Abstract

Recent arguments in science education have proposed that school science should pay more attention to teaching the nature of science and its social practices. However, unlike the content of science, for which there is well-established consensus, there would appear to be much less unanimity within the academic community about which “ideas-about-science” are essential elements that should be included in the contemporary school science curriculum. Hence, this study sought to determine empirically the extent of any consensus using a three stage Delphi questionnaire with 23 participants drawn from the communities of leading and acknowledged international experts of science educators; scientists; historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science; experts engaged in work to improve the public understanding of science; and expert science teachers. The outcome of the research was a set of nine themes encapsulating key ideas about the nature of science for which there was consensus and which were considered to be an essential component of school science curriculum. Together with extensive comments provided by the participants, these data give some measure of the existing level of agreement in the community engaged in science education and science communication about the salient features of a vulgarized account of the nature of science. Although some of the themes are already a feature of existing school science curricula, many others are not. The findings of this research, therefore, challenge (a) whether the picture of science represented in the school science curriculum is sufficiently comprehensive, and (b) whether there balance in the curriculum between teaching about the content of science and the nature of science is appropriate. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 40: 692–720, 2003