Background and Objectives: Making developmental changes in a society requires systematic modifications. Education is a powerful driving force behind it. Due to the limitation of budget and space in most Iranian schools and time-consuming nature of fundamental changes in teaching methods, the capacity of non-formal education should be considered to compensate for these shortcomings in order to achieve the educational goals of students. Museums and science centers are part of these opportunities. Iranian Museum of Science and Technology (INMOST) was established as an institution in the science and innovation system of the country and can play an important role in non-formal education by adopting different methods in representing science, and by communicating science and society, it can nurture and promote the students’ understanding of the nature of science along with the institution of formal education. To understand how this function is performed, the relationship between science museums and the concepts of science and science education must be studied from different perspectives. Due to the novelty of scientific studies in this field, the present study analyzes INMOST from the perspective of the nature of science and how it represents by museum exhibits. In this regard, the purpose of this research is to understand the status of representation of the nature of science in the Mechanics Gallery of the INMOST to clarify how educational visits to this museum help formal education.
Methods: For this purpose, the concept of "nature of science" is described and the classification of Chiappetta, Fillman and Sethna (1991) is used as a conceptual framework. In this classification, the nature of science includes four categories: Science as a body of knowledge, Science as investigative nature of science, Science as a way of thinking, Science as interaction of science, technology and society. To understand the presence of features of the nature of science in museum exhibitions, deductive qualitative content analysis is conducted so, the statistical sample of the research are (1) all the labels explaining the displays and objects that are in the Mechanics Gallery of the National Museum of Science and Technology and (2) all the oral explanations of the museum guides to the visitors which were collected and analyzed. Therefore, purposive sampling was utilized.
Findings: Analysis of the content of 14 devices in the Mechanics Gallery of the INMOST shows that each device has some components and lacks some other components, and there are fewer devices in this gallery that have all four components of the nature of science. This also is true for the descriptions of the guides. Comparison of the data shows that both in the description of the guide and in the labels, the level of attention to the dimension of "interaction of science with society and technology" is less than other dimensions. The highest extent of attention is paid to “Science as a research method” and “Science as a set of knowledge” in the labels and the guides’ descriptions, respectively.
Conclusion: Science museums as a non-formal education institution can play a vital role in increasing scientific literacy, scientific understanding and improving the process of non-formal science education in society and contributing to the formal education. The INMOST can meet this expectation when museum exhibits, labels, and oral explanations are represented, designed and compiled based on communication principles, museum exhibits, and informal design instruction.
©2022 The author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, as long as the original authors and source are cited. No permission is required from the authors or the publishers.