The “Species” Concept as a Gateway to Nature of Science

Jorun Nyléhn, Associate Professor at bioCEED and BIO, and colleagues have recently published the article “The “Species” Concept as a Gateway to Nature of Science.” in Science & Education.

Understanding how science works has become a primary goal in education, as it connects to critical thinking and the foundations of knowledge. This includes the more complex and overarching topics like evolutionary biology. In this recently published paper from the Department of Biosciences, UiB and the Department of Teacher Education and School Research, UiO, the potential of using species concepts as a means to increase the knowledge of the science of biology is investigated. The article focus on the most common species concepts in science, includes aspects from the philosophy and nature of science, and four recommendations for teaching biology are given.


The nature of science (NOS) is a primary goal in school science. Most teachers are not well-prepared for teaching NOS, but a sophisticated and in-depth understanding of NOS is necessary for effective teaching. Some authors emphasize the need for teaching NOS in context. Species, a central concept in biology, is proposed in this article as a concrete example of a means for achieving increased understanding of NOS. Although species are commonly presented in textbooks as fixed entities with a single definition, the concept of species is a highly discussed one in the science and the philosophy of biology. A multitude of species concepts exist, reflecting both the views and interests of researchers and their utility in different organism groups. The present study serves to address the following questions: How do textbooks in Norwegian primary and lower secondary schools present the concept of species? Can inquiries into the concept of “species” serve to highlight aspects of NOS? A review of the available literature on species and species concepts in school is also performed. In the schoolbooks, the biological species concept is commonly used as the main definition, whereas the morphological species concept is represented by additional remarks of similarity. The potential and pitfalls of using the species concept for teaching NOS are discussed, with NOS being discussed both as a family resemblance concept and as a consensus list. Teacher education is proposed as a starting point for inducing a more sophisticated view of biology into schools.

Reference and link to the article

Nyléhn, J., & Ødegaard, M. (2018). The “Species” Concept as a Gateway to Nature of Science. Species Concepts in Norwegian Textbooks. Science & Education, 27(7-8), 685-714. doi:


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