Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


This study arose from the intersection of a number of concerns, chiefly: the need for informed decision making by the public, including scientists, in issues involving science and technology; the inadequacy of school science in preparing students for this task; the inadequacy of curriculum development processes in effectively using the combined expertise of curriculum stakeholders; and the strong interest of curriculum stakeholders in just what school science should be. Accordingly, the study set out to inform debates about each of these issues by addressing underlying causes. The particular underlying cause studied was the nature of school Science and how it could and should characterise that broader entity, science.

School science is traditionally characterised in one or two dimensions: as knowledge or processes or both. This has been the situation for so long the correspondence between the school subject Science and science itself tends not to be questioned. A relatively small number of authors in the education literatures have been critical of this situation, and so the present study sought to re-examine the characterisation of science for the school curriculum. However, an obvious rejoinder to the question, What is the nature of science? is another question, Whose view of science should be used? Given the disparity of views among science curriculum stakeholders, the present thesis sought not to add yet another view to the debate, but to 'map' the various views with the aim of providing a framework within which all stakeholders could add to informed discussion and decision making. The present thesis identified the metascientific literature as such a suitable basis, whose authority is recognised by stakeholders as a group. It comprises the publicly available, refereed scholarly body of research into the nature of science. Thus the present thesis interprets this as the central research question, H o w does the metascientific literature characterise science?

Through a semantic analysis of summary statements, such as definitions of science, the present thesis identified characterisations of science in the literature as being multidimensional, not uni- or bi-dimensional as traditionally used. In particular, the present thesis suggests knowledge, activity, purpose, structure, belief system and context as six interactive dimensions that account for characterisations of science in the metascientific literature. It further suggests that these dimensions provide a more robust basis for characterising science in the school curriculum.