Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE The Nature of Science and Science Education

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Mathematics and Science Education

DESCRIPTION The study-unit provides a review of significant milestones in the history of Science and scientific endeavours, and a discussion of the main themes related to the Nature of Science. Students will relate and analyse the main considerations regarding the development and design of Science curricula through an overview of a number of local and foreign Science education policy documents.

Study-Unit Aims:

The aims of this study-unit are:
- to introduce students to the nature and processes of Science;
- to give a historical perspective of various scientific 'events';
- to discuss and analyse applications of philosophical and historical perspectives of Science in Science education;
- to familiarise students with the major works on the philosophy of Science;
- to enable students to reflect on the philosophical foundations of the nature of Science and their use in Science teaching; and
- to discuss international and local developments in Science curricula, enabling understanding of proposed principles and changes.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- discuss the nature of Science in terms of its aims, values and assumptions inherent in the establishment of facts, concepts, principles, theories and their interpretation;
- recognise and explain the roles of logical processes (e.g. induction, deduction, falsification) and empirical work in the development, growth and demise of scientific theories;
- explain the social construction of knowledge in Science;
- give their own 'definition' of Science and the nature of Science, and consequently describe and identify activities that can be termed 'scientific';
- analyse problems of teaching the nature of Science and debate which aspects of Science should be taught;
- discuss who Science education is for; and
- critically analyse Science education policy documents and compare developments in Science curricula and Science teaching.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- design schemes of work, lesson plans and resources for learning reflecting the philosophical and historical perspectives of Science;
- plan class discussions about the nature of Science and how historical perspectives of Science to enable effective learning in Science; and
- access and evaluate various sources on the philosophy and history of Science that can be used in the preparation of their work.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Watson J. D., The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, Penguin, 1999. [There are newer editions and versions, as: Watson J. D., The Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix, edited by Gann A., Witkowski J., Simon & Schuster, 2012]
- Bryson B., A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Black Swan, 2003.
- Okasha S., Philosophy of Science – A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Scanlon E. et al. (Eds), Reconsidering Science Learning, Routledge Press, 2004.
- Pace R. & Farrugia J., What are Maltese Undergraduate Students’ Views of the Nature of Science and Scientific Inquiry?, Conference Proceedings International Conference New Perspectives in Science Education 4th Edition, pp. 16-20, edizioni, 2015. (
- Reflecting on Sputnik: Linking the Past, Present and Future of Educational Refor. (

Supplementary Readings:

- Weinberg S., To Explain the World, The Discovery of Modern Science, Harper Collins, 2015.
- Barker G. & Kitcher P., Philosophy of Science – A New Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Pace R., What are Maltese Undergraduate Students’ Views of the Nature of Science and Scientific Inquiry?, B.Ed.(Hons) dissertation, University of Malta, 2014.
- Chalmers A. F., What is this Thing called Science? 3rd Edition, Open University, 1999.
- Popper, K., The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Routledge Classics, 2003.
- Kuhn, T. S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1996.
- Feyerabend, P., Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge, 4th edition, Verso Book, 2010.
- Fuller, S., Kuhn Vs Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science, Columbia University Press, 2005.
- Fuller, S., Kuhn Vs Popper: Prophets of the End of Science, Icon Books Ltd, 2003.
- Kuhn, T. S., The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought, Harvard University Press, 1990.
- Kuhn, T. S., The Road Since Structure: Philosophical Essays, 1970-1993, with an Autobiographical Interview, University of Chicago Press, 2003.
- Sardar, Z., Thomas Kuhn and the Science Wars, Icon Books Ltd, 2000.
- Pais, A., The Genius of Science - A Portrait Gallery of Twentieth-Century Physicists, OUP, 2000.
- Hodson D., Teaching and Learning Science – Towards a Personalised Approach, Open University Press, 1998.
- Bauer H., Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, University of Illinois Press, 1992.
- Jenkins E. W., School Science, Citizenship and the Public Understanding of Science, 1999.
- DeBoer G., A History of Ideas in Science Education: Implications for Practice, Teachers College Press, 1991.

Online resources:

- Malta: MEEF, A Vision for Science Education in Malta, 2011.
- United Kingdom: The Royal Society, Vision for Science and Mathematics Education, The Royal Society, 2014.
- Scotland: Curriculum for Excellence: Sciences Principles and Practices.
- Australia: Australian Government, Vision for a science Nation. Responding to STEM: Australia’s Future, 2015.
- United States: Project 2061 – Science for All Americans, Education for a changing future. (


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Presentation (20 Minutes) SEM2 Yes 20%
Oral Examination (20 Minutes) SEM2 Yes 40%
Assignment SEM2 Yes 40%

LECTURER/S Charles G. Bonello
Martin M. Musumeci (Co-ord.)

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.