University students’ views on the nature of science and psychology

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Provost, SC, Martin, FH, Peacock, A, Lipp, OV, Bath, D & Hannan, G 2011, 'University students’ views on the nature of science and psychology', Psychology Learning & Teaching, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 128-145.

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Students’ understanding of the nature of science (NOS), and the degree to which they perceive their discipline to be part of science, are critical to their academic development in psychology. In Study 1, 650 first-year psychology students from three universities in Australia completed the Psychology as a Science (PAS) questionnaire, an adjective checklist relating to science and psychology, and the Science Knowledge and Attitudes (SKA) scale. Results confirmed the limited value of the PAS to identify components of the NOS, but indicated that students view psychology to be a science within a few weeks of the commencement of their study at university. Three factors underlying the SKA scale were identified: naïve view of science (NVS), social and cultural perspective (SCP), and knowledge of refutability (KR). In Study 2, 622 students at the University of Tasmania completed the SKA and items relating to their beliefs about studying. Scores on the three factors were correlated with beliefs about studying, scores on KR increased with years of study, and scores on NVS decreased with years of study. These data suggest that our educational practices do in fact lead to appropriate changes in students’ NOS understanding in a manner consistent with the learning outcomes underpinning psychology graduate attributes.

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