First-year premedical students' understanding of Nature of Science (NOS) improved over one academic year. Those who participated in a nonfiction book club as a curricular option showed better understanding of NOS than students who did not participate. Pre- and postcourse surveys and course documents suggest that book club may attract students with higher NOS status and further improve it.
The leap from science student to scientist involves recognizing that science is a tentative, evolving body of knowledge that is socially constructed and culturally influenced; this is known as The Nature of Science (NOS). The aim of this study was to document NOS growth in first-year premedical students who participated in a science book club as a curricular option. The club read three acclaimed nonfiction works that connect biology to medicine via the history of scientific ideas. Students’ NOS status was assessed as informed, transitional, or naïve at the beginning and end of the academic year using the Views of Nature of Science Questionnaire–Form C (VNOS-C). Focus group interviews and document analysis of assignments and exams provided qualitative evidence. VNOS-C scores improved over the academic year regardless of book club participation. Students who participated in book club had marginally better NOS status at the end of the year but also at the beginning, suggesting that book club may have attracted rather than produced students with higher NOS status. It is notable that an improvement in NOS understanding could be detected at all, as there have been few reports of NOS growth in the literature in which NOS was not an explicit topic of instruction.