USING THE HISTORY OF RESEARCH ON SICKLE-CELL ANEMIA TO AFFECT PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS' CONCEPTIONS OF THE NATURE OF SCIENCE

Eric M. Howe The Mallinson Institute for Science Education

PhD Thesis, 2004

Abstract: Preservice elementary teachers enrolled in an elective biology course participated in an eight-class unit of instruction based on the history of research in understanding the disease sickle-cell anemia. Students were introduced to the disease as a "mystery" for them to solve, and subsequently developed an understanding of the disease from several perspectives of biology (e.g. genetics, ecology, evolution, molecular biology). The unit involved open-ended problems in which students examined evidence and developed explanations in a manner analogous to the reasoning used by Anthony C. Allison and his colleagues during the early to middle part of the twentieth century. Throughout the unit, students were challenged to explicitly and reflectively connect their work with the historical material to more general conclusions about aspects of the nature of science. These aspects included (a) the nature of scientific theories, (b) the tentative nature of science, (c) the difference between scientific theories and laws, (d) the validity of observational methods in science, and (e) the subjective (theory-laden) nature of science. The research measured students' pre and post-instruction views by using both an open-ended survey (VNOS) and follow-up, semi-structured interviews. The results indicate that an appreciable number of students underwent a change or enrichment in their views for some of the nature of science aspects. Moreover, changes or enrichment in students' views was directly attributable to their work in the sickle-cell unit as evidenced from the specific examples students articulated in their post-instruction instruments in support of their more informed views. In general, the findings of this research lend empirical support to the value of having students actively recapitulate the history of science to improve their nature of science conceptions. This is facilitated when students are challenged to explicitly and reflectively develop views of the nature of science in tandem with examinations of problems taken from the history of science.


My research interests examine how teachers can use episodes from the history of science to help students improve their understanding of what is broadly referred to as the nature of science (aspects associated with the epistemology of science). With this in mind, my scholarly work focuses primarily upon three areas.

The first area includes my empirical research which measures how students' nature of science conceptions are affected by lessons that incorporate the history of science. My dissertation examined how preservice teachers' views were affected by their participation in a series of lessons I developed based on the history of research in understanding the disease sickle-cell anemia. The empirical portion of this research used open-ended pre- and post- VNOS questionnaires and follow-up, semi-structured interviews.

The second area of my scholarly research focuses on understanding how teachers should design and implement lessons that incorporate the history of science, given the objective of improving student nature of science views. Recent research in science education supports the efficacy of having students explicitly and reflectively connect their work with science content to more informed nature of science conceptions, however, this work is in the formative stage. There has been little attention given to documenting specifically how teachers can incorporate various types of explicit and reflective mechanisms in lessons that emphasize the history of science. With this in mind, I am interested in developing different pedagogical techniques that challenge students to reflectively engage with historical episodes in science and connect their learning to more general morals concerning the nature of science. A recent article (Howe, 2009) reflects this emphasis.

Finally, I hope to continue my research on the history of the 1940s/50s genetic research on sickle-cell anemia. There has been relatively little objective work in documenting the historical figures, the explanations they developed, and the ramifications of the research to more general philosophical conclusions for the history of science and for science education.


PUBLICATIONS
Rudge, D. W. & Howe, E. M. Whither the VNOS? In Silva, C.C. and Prestes, M.E.B. (eds.) Latin American Conference of the International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group. (1st IHPST-LA), São Carlos: Universidade de São Paulo de São Carlos.-peer reviewed, in press
2013 Rudge, D.W., Cassidy, D.P., Fulford, J. M. & Howe, E.M. Changes Observed in Views of the Nature of Science During a Historically Based Unit. Science & Education -available on-line.
2009 Howe, E.M. Henry David Thoreau, Forest Succession, and the Nature of Science: A Method for Curriculum Development. The American Biology Teacher 71(7).
2009 Rudge, D.W. & Howe, E. M. An Explicit and Reflective Approach to the Use of History to Promote Understanding of the Nature of Science. Science & Education 18(5):561-580.
2007 Howe, E.M. Addressing Nature of Science Core Tenets with the History of Science: An Example with Sickle-cell Anemia and Malaria. The American Biology Teacher 69(8)(October, 2007).
2007 Howe, E.M. Untangling Sickle-cell Anemia and the Teaching of Heterozygote Protection. Science & Education 16(1):1-19.
2007 Rudge, D.W., Geer, U.C. & Howe, E.M. But is it Effective? Assessing the Impact of a Historically-based Unit. Ninth International History, Philosophy & Science Teaching (IHPST) Conference, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada. (Session 4.0.3)
2005 Howe, E.M. & Rudge, D.W. Recapitulating the History of Sickle-Cell Anemia Research: Improving Students’ NOS Views Explicitly and Reflectively. Science & Education 14(3-5):423-441.
2004 Rudge, D.W. & Howe, E.M. Incorporating History into the Science Classroom. The Science Teacher 71(9):52-57. -invited essay


PRESENTATIONS
Rudge, D. W., Cassidy, D.P., Fulford, J.M & Howe, E.M. "Assessing the Impact of a Historically Based Unit on Preservice Teachers' Views of the Nature of Science", Teaching Science through the History & Philosophy of Science. Boston University Interdisciplinary Conference, Boston University, Boston, MA on December 7, 2012. - paper
Rudge, D.W., Cassidy, D.P., Fulford, J.M. & Howe, E.M. "Assessing the Impact of the Explicit Reflective Approach to Teaching the Nature of Science", Ninth International Conference for the History of Science in Science Education: Enabling Scientific Understanding through Historical Instruments and Experiments in Formal and Non-Formal Learning Environments, Flensburg University, Flensburg, Germany on July 30, 2012.- paper
Howe, E. M. "Sickle-Cell Anemia Through History", National Association of Biology Teachers International Conference, Minneapolis, MN, November, 2010. -talk
Rudge, D.W., Geer, U.C. & Howe, E.M. "But is it Effective? Assessing the Impact of a Historically-based Unit", Ninth International History, Philosophy & Science Teaching (IHPST) Conference, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada, June 28, 2007.
Howe, E. M. "Henry David Thoreau, Forest Succession, and the Nature of Science: A Method for Curriculum Development", 9th International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Conference, Calgary, Canada, June 24, 2007. -talk
Howe, E. M. "Using Explicit and Reflective Pedagogy and the History of Science to Affect Students' Nature of Science Conceptions: Results of an Empirical Study", Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, San Francisco, CA, April 4th, 2006. -talk
Howe, E. M. "Untangling Sickle-cell Anemia and the Discovery of Heterozygote Protection", 8th International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Conference, Leeds, England, July 16, 2005. -talk
Howe, E. M. "Recapitulating the History of Sickle-Cell Anemia Research: Improving Students' NOS Views Explicitly and Reflectively" 7th International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Conference, Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 31, 2003. -talk
Howe, E. M. "Using the History of Research on Sickle-Cell Anemia to Affect Preservice Teachers' Conceptions of the Nature of Science", International Conference of The Association for the Education of Teachers in Science, St. Louis, MO, February 1, 2003. -talk


Last updated on 29 Apr 2013.