Life sciences teachers' understanding of the nature of science within the context of teaching evolution.
The introduction of evolution in the ‘new’ Grade 12 life sciences curriculum in 2008 has created many challenges for life sciences teachers. The curriculum requires teachers to integrate evolution in all aspects of their teachings. The literature reveals that many life sciences teachers teach the concept of evolution in isolation and fail to integrate the topic as the underlying principle of Biology. Various studies conclude that teachers’ understandings and beliefs about the NOS no doubt influence their classroom instruction. This study explores life sciences teachers’ understanding of the NOS when teaching the theory of evolution. The NOS is used as the framing concept of the study. My research is a case study of three experienced life sciences teachers. Data was obtained from questionnaires, classroom observations and interviews with the teachers. This data provided valuable insight into the teachers’ understanding of the NOS as well as the way in which this understanding influences their pedagogical practices. Furthermore I was able to develop some understanding of why teachers teach evolution in the way that they do. The instruments were analysed qualitatively. The findings were reported as narratives and reveal that the teachers have different levels of understanding of the NOS. These different understandings have a profound influence on their understanding of evolution, however their understanding of the NOS did not have the same effect on the manner in which they taught evolution. While all three teachers had some misunderstandings, two teachers were able to teach evolution without demonstrating these misconceptions, while one teacher was not. Furthermore, there are also a number of additional factors such as exam-driven approaches, teacher identity, controversy surrounding the theory of evolution, and finally, lack of resources that impact negatively on the way evolution is taught. In conclusion I offer strategies to improve life sciences teachers’ understanding of the NOS and evolution and highlights areas for further research.