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Researching the Use of Historical Case Studies in Secondary School Science.

Irwin, Allan R. (2000) Researching the Use of Historical Case Studies in Secondary School Science. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

In this thesis I begin by arguing the case for a secondary school science curriculum which aims at scientific literacy for all pupils as a first priority rather than a training for future scientists. My view is that the emphasis on content in the science curriculum (for reasons of utility) has been overplayed and that a broader understanding of the main ideas in science is more appropriate. A vital aspect of scientific literacy is pupils’ understanding of the nature of science. This includes, for instance, what it is about science that makes it a distinct discipline, to what extent there is a scientific method, and some understanding of the epistemology of science. My contention is that school science education should be more informed by contemporary views on the philosophy of science and that philosophical issues need to be given more prominence. I find that there are signs that textbooks are using historical material in a more central role but that most historical material still consists of biographical and anecdotal background information to ‘humanise’ the main text. I argue for the development of more units to be written using an historical theme so that pupils acquire an appropriate understanding of the growth of scientific knowledge. I believe that a more informed and mature view of the nature of science is essential for non-scientists if they are not to experience alienation from science. Such a view would entail the appreciation of scientific achievement as a major part of society’s cultural heritage. It would enable non-scientists to take a full part as citizens in a democracy without undue dependence on scientists for the resolution of scientific issues. My thesis is that historical case studies can provide insights into the nature of science. I start from the consensus view that many pupils have a mistaken notion of the epistemology of science. They perceive the progress of science as a relentless process of discovery, aided by increasingly sophisticated technology. The human imagination and creativity involved in the development of scientific theories is neglected by school science in favour of a decontextualised presentation of science as a ‘rhetoric of conclusions’. I argue that the use of a story-line approach appeals to pupils more than the often dull and unattractive ‘final form’ presentation of science, stressing its objectivity and removing it from its human origins. The popularity of‘discovery’ methods of learning in the 1970s and 1980s reinforced the notion that pupils could attain an understanding of theory by direct experience. I reject this pedagogical approach as a legacy of an outdated philosophy of science. My research shows that the historical perspective restores the image of science as a human endeavour in which psychological, sociological and historical factors have played a part in the progress of science.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Irwin, Allan R.
Date : 2000
Additional Information : Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 2000.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 06 May 2020 11:53
Last Modified : 06 May 2020 11:53
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/855562

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