Date of Award

10-1-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Lisa Martin-Hansen - Chair

Second Advisor

Deron Boyles

Third Advisor

Phillip Gagne

Fourth Advisor

Jodi Kaufmann

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine philosophical hermeneutics as a referent for student understanding of Nature-of-Science (NOS) concepts. Rather than focus on a prescriptive set of canons used in addressing NOS pedagogy in K-12 schools, this study seeks to explicate a descriptive set of principles based on Hans Georg-Gadamer’s theory of interpretation that has the potential for developing dispositions necessary for understanding. Central among these are the concepts of fore-structure, prejudice, temporal distance, and history of effect, all of which constitute part of the whole of the hermeneutic circle as envisaged by Gadamer. As such, Gadamer’s hermeneutics is contrasted with Cartesian epistemology and its primacy of method, the Enlightenment’s prejudice against prejudice, the modernist/progressive tendency to consider all situations as problems to be solved by relegating all forms of knowledge to techné, and the subjective nature of interpretation inherent in a hermeneutics of suspicion. The implication of such a conceptual analysis for NOS pedagogy is that student understanding is considered not so much as a cognitive outcome dependent on a series of mental functions but rather as an ontological characteristic of Dasein (being-human) that situates learning in the interchange between interpreter and text. In addition, the philosophical foundations implicit in addressing student understanding of NOS found in many curricular reform efforts and pedagogical practices in science education are questioned. Gadamer’s hermeneutics affords science education a viable philosophical framework within which to consider student understanding of the development of scientific knowledge and the scientific enterprise.

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