A survey of the scientific epistemological views of college students: Assessing the impact of an implicit curriculum in science education

Leigh S Arino de la Rubia, Tennessee State University


In typical classrooms students are taught an explicit science curriculum while also learning implicit ideas about epistemologies of science. The ideal product of these school science experiences are students who are scientifically literate and capable of making informed decisions about science, including career choices in the sciences (NSES, 1996). However, studies in Taiwan have shown that the majority of students who chose science majors also aligned with an empiricist viewpoint of science knowledge on surveys of epistemological views (Liu & Tsai, 2008). This research consisted of surveying college students in biology classes at an HBCU to determine whether students' overall view of science knowledge aligns with a constructivist or empiricist view of the process. Students' scores were also produced for different domains of the epistemology of science, such as Social Negotiation, Theory Laden exploration, Cultural Impacts, and the Changing & Tentative feature of science (Tsai & Liu, 2005). ANOVA tests showed differences on student scientific epistemological view (SEV) score based upon university classification when other key factors were controlled. Subsequent MANOVA tests revealed significant differences on the Social Negotiation subscale between male and female participants and among ethnicity groups (p<.05). A student's major in science fields was correlated with an alignment with a constructivist view of the Theory-laden Exploration of science (r=-.083, p<.05), and students who intended to teach any subject following graduation scored significantly higher on the Cultural Impacts subscale than those who did not intend to teach (p<.05). When comparing different university classifications of science majors, underclassmen aligned with significantly more sophisticated views of the role of culture in science (p<.05) when compared with Junior and Senior science majors, who scored lower on this subscale. Considering that the majority of today's scientists are caucasian males (NSF, 2007) there is a need for increased diversity in our future scientists to remain competitive in a global marketplace (OSTP, 2006). Using effective pedagogy matched to students' existing epistemic views and encouraging students to move towards ideal, constructivist epistemologies may be a key in broadening the participation of under-represented minorities in science fields.

Subject Area

Science education|Curriculum development|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Leigh S Arino de la Rubia, "A survey of the scientific epistemological views of college students: Assessing the impact of an implicit curriculum in science education" (2009). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3369435.