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A science teacher not only presents scientific concepts, but tacitly creates a context in which scientific concepts are presented to the class. This context can be strongly influenced by teacher beliefs or worldview. In the current research, teacher worldviews with respect to the essence of nature were examined. Two biology and two physical science teachers individually sat for qualitative interviews. The same interview protocols were used in a concurrent study involving ninth graders at their high school. The analysis led to three assertions: (1) When compared with their students, the science teachers had a much more focused and less diverse conceptualization of the natural world. The students were much more likely to speak of aesthetic and spiritual elements of nature in contrast to their teachers who focused more on what one could know about nature. Teachers also spoke more in-depth on topics rather than the “name dropping” typical of the students. (2) The most interesting finding was that the physical science and biology teachers had considerably different conceptualizations of nature. The physical science teachers talked much more about all that scientists do know about nature and how successful science has been. (3) The biology teachers were much less sanguine about science, yet clearly enthusiastic. They showed greater concern about the environment and were more likely to speak of the aesthetics of nature.


SLCSP Paper # 139a

Published Citation

Cobern, William W., Adrienne T. Gibson, and Scott A. Underwood. "The Different Worlds of High School Biology and Physical Science Teachers." National Association for Research in Science Teaching. St. Louis, MO: 31 March to 6 April 1996.