Using Nonfiction Narratives in an English Course to Teach the Nature of Science and Its Importance to Communicating About Science
Lundy Evans, Lynn
The nature of science (NOS) is a foundational framework for understanding scientific ideas and concepts. This framework includes scientific methodology, the process of revising and interpreting data, and the ways in which science is a social endeavor. Nature of science literature treats science as a way of knowing that is based on observable phenomenon. While discipline-specific coursework teaches the factual information of science, it may fall short on teaching scientific literacy, a key component of which is understanding NOS. We have designed an English course that features nonfiction narratives describing the early days of epidemiology, hygiene awareness, and the current controversy surrounding vaccination. Using a validated assessment of student understanding of NOS, the Student Understanding of Science and Scientific Inquiry (SUSSI), we have determined that this science-themed English composition course was effective in teaching NOS. Student understanding of NOS increased between the beginning and the end of the course in eight of the nine parameters of NOS measured, with the greatest gains in understanding the role of revision and of creativity in science. Our data imply that the course helped students develop a slightly less naïve understanding of the nature of science and its importance in the development and dissemination of scientific ideas and concepts.