Relevant CAT: Conceptual Diagnostic Test
The Views of Nature of Science Questionnaire (VNOS) has three versions, all of which are open-ended. The most frequently used versions are the VNOSB (seven items) and the VNOSC (ten items). Each instrument aims to elucidate students' views about several aspects of "nature of science" (NOS). These NOS aspects include the:
- Empirical NOS: Science is based, at least partially, on observations of the natural world;
- Tentative NOS: Scientific knowledge is subject to change and never absolute or certain;
- Inferential NOS: The crucial distinction between scientific claims (e.g., inferences) and evidence on which such claims are based (e.g., observations);
- Creative NOS: The generation of scientific knowledge involves human imagination and creativity;
- Theory-laden NOS: Scientific knowledge and investigation are influenced by scientists’ theoretical and disciplinary commitments, beliefs, prior knowledge, training, experiences, and expectations;
- Social and cultural NOS: Science as a human enterprise is practiced within, affects, and is affected by, a lager social and cultural milieu;
- Myth of the “Scientific Method”: The lack of a universal step-wise method that guarantees the generation of valid knowledge; and
- Nature of, and distinction between scientific theories and laws (e.g., lack of a hierarchical relationship between theories and laws).
The authors suggest that the VNOSB and the VNOSC be administered under controlled conditions (such as a classroom setting) and with sufficient time (less than one hour). They suggest that the instruments not be used for summative assessments (i.e., as a final determination of student conceptions or views) and that the users inform the students that there are no right or wrong answers. The researchers strongly recommend that administrations of the VNOS be coupled with follow-up individual interviews to insure the validity of the instrument.
The VNOSB was tested for construct validity (i.e., capacity of the instrument to measure what it intends to measure). The researchers administered the VNOSB to two groups of nine participants each: a novice group and an expert group. After the interviews, researchers discovered clear differences in the expert vs. novice responses regarding nature of science. The instrument was further modified and expanded for the VNOSC. A panel of five experts examined the items for content validity and the items were modified accordingly. Profile comparisons indicated that interpretations of participants’ views as elucidated on the VNOSC were congruent to those expressed by participants during individual interviews.
The VNOS-B and VNOS-C have been made available with permission from their authors.
VNOS - Form B
- After scientists have developed a theory (e.g. atomic theory), does the theory ever change? If you believe that theories do change, explain why we bother to teach scientific theories. Defend your answer with examples.
- What does an atom look like? How certain are scientists about the nature of the atom? What specific evidence do you think scientists use to determine what an atom looks like?
- Is there a difference between a scientific theory and a scientific law? Give an example to illustrate your answer.
- How are science and art similar? How are they different?
- Scientists perform experiments/investigations when trying to solve problems. Other than the planning and design of these experiments/investigations, do scientists use their creativity and imagination during and after data collection? Please explain you answer and provide examples if appropriate.
- Is there a difference between scientific knowledge and opinion? Give an example to illustrate your answer.
- Some astronomers believe that the universe is expanding while others believe that it is shrinking; still others believe that the universe is in a static state without any expansion or shrinkage. How are these different conclusions possible if all of these scientists are looking at the same experiments and data?
VNOS - Form C
- What, in your view, is science? What makes science (or a scientific discipline such as physics, biology, etc.) different from other disciplines of inquiry (e.g., religion, philosophy)?
- What is an experiment?
- Does the development of scientific knowledge require experiments?
If yes, explain why. Give an example to defend your position.
If no, explain why. Give an example to defend your position.
- After scientists have developed a scientific theory (e.g., atomic theory, evolution theory), does the theory ever change?
If you believe that scientific theories do not change, explain why. Defend your answer with examples.
If you believe that scientific theories do change: (a) Explain why theories change; (b) Explain why we bother to learn scientific theories. Defend your answer with examples.
- Is there a difference between a scientific theory and a scientific law? Illustrate your answer with an example.
- Science textbooks often represent the atom as a central nucleus composed of protons (positively charged particles) and neutrons (neutral particles) with electrons (negatively charged particles) orbiting the nucleus. How certain are scientists about the structure of the atom? What specific evidence do you think scientists used to determine what an atom looks like?
- Science textbooks often define a species as a group of organisms that share similar characteristics and can interbreed with one another to produce fertile offspring. How certain are scientists about their characterization of what a species is? What specific evidence do you think scientists used to determine what a species is?
- It is believed that about 65 million years ago the dinosaurs became extinct. Of the hypothesis formulated by scientists to explain the extinction, two enjoy wide support. The first, formulated by one group of scientists, suggests that a huge meteorite hit the earth 65 million years ago and led to a series of events that caused the extinction. The second hypothesis, formulated by another group of scientists, suggests that massive and violent volcanic eruptions were responsible for the extinction. How are these different conclusions possible if scientists in both groups have access to and use the same set of data to derive their conclusions?
- Some claim that science is infused with social and cultural values. That is, science reflects the social and political values, philosophical assumptions, and intellectual norms of the culture in which it is practiced. Others claim that science is universal. That is, science transcends national and cultural boundaries and is not affected by social, political, and philosophical values, and intellectual norms of the culture in which it is practiced.
If you believe that science reflects social and cultural values, explain why. Defend your answer with examples.
If you believe that science is universal, explain why. Defend your answer with examples.
- Scientists perform experiments/investigations when trying to find answers to the questions they put forth. Do scientists use their creativity and imagination during their investigations?
If yes, then at which stages of the investigations do you believe scientists use their imagination and creativity: planning and design, data collection, after data collection? Please explain why scientists use imagination and creativity. Provide examples if appropriate.
If you believe that scientists do not use imagination and creativity, please explain why. Provide examples if appropriate.
Abd-El-Khalick, Fouad (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bell, Randy L. (Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education, University of Virginia)
Lederman, Norm G. (Department of Science and Mathematics Education, Oregon State University)
Schwartz, Renee S. (Department of Science and Mathematics Education, Oregon State University)
Lederman, N. G., Abd-El-Khalick, F., Bell, R. L., & Schwartz, R. (2002). Views of nature of science questionnaire: Toward valid and meaningful assessment of learner’s conceptions of nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(6), 497-521.