New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

What are Maltese Undergraduate Students’ Views of the Nature of Science and Scientific Inquiry?

Rachel Pace, University of Malta (Malta)

Josette Farrugia, University of Malta (Malta)


An understanding of the Nature of Science (NOS) and Scientific Inquiry (SI) is essential to acquire both scientific literacy and decision-making skills [1-6]. There have been several debates on what constitutes the NOS and SI. However a widely accepted definition is the one proposed in Liang, Chen, Chen, Kaya, Adams, Macklin and Ebenezer based on Lederman (1992) which states that “The nature of science (NOS) and scientific inquiry refers to the epistemology of science, the values and beliefs inherent to scientific knowledge and its development” [7, p.3]. The two terms encompass components such as the tentativeness of science, objectivity and subjectivity, creativity and rationality, the nature of theories, laws, observations and inferences as well as the social and cultural context of science [7].


In the study reported in this paper, the Student Understanding of Science and Scientific Inquiry (SUSSI) questionnaire, developed by Liang, Chen, Chen, Kaya, Adams, Macklin, and Ebenezer [8] was used to investigate the NOS views held by 343 Maltese undergraduate students attending the University of Malta. The views of different sub-groups including science and non-science majors, year of study of science students and gender were compared. Overall undergraduate students had inadequate to transitional views of the NOS. Students had transitional views on the objective and tentative NOS. Less adequate views were observed on the use of imagination and creativity in science, the social and cultural aspect of science and scientific methodology. Naïve views were in turn most common on the distinction between scientific laws and theories with most students perceiving scientific laws as being more certain than theories. Science students were more convinced than non-science students about their views on two aspects of the NOS, namely the nature of observations and inferences, whether these are subjective or objective, and the social/ cultural aspects of science.  Science students also held better views than non-science students on the role of imagination and creativity in science. This may imply that science education positively affects their views on this component. Variation by gender and years of study was in turn minimal as students in different subgroups held very similar views. Based on these findings this study provides classroom and curricular implications for the teaching and learning of NOS.


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