The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education

By Kenneth Tobin | Go to book overview

15
Learning to Teach Science: Constructivism, Reflection, and Learning From Experience

Tom Russell

The decade of the 1980s saw research on the learning of science concepts dominated by the perspective of constructivism. At the same time, teacher educators generally became increasingly attentive to the perspectives of reflection and metaphor as aids to the process of learning to teach. The process of learning to teach science is a significant meeting ground for the perspectives of constructivism and reflection, and this chapter explores the potential value of bringing the two perspectives to bear on each other. This task requires consideration of both content and process in the two domains of science teaching and science teacher education.

Constructivism and reflection are two terms that have joined the science education vocabulary in the last decade from quite different sources. Constructivism is supported by studies of how children learn and driven by perspectives on the nature of learning. Reflection is related to analyses of the nature of professional knowledge and the ways it is acquired, held, and renewed, and it is driven by perspectives on the relationship between thought and action.

These two terms share several significant features. Both are adaptable to and suggestive of abroad range of meanings, so that any two people using either term assume at their peril that they are using the term in the same way. Both terms are also indicative of potential challenges to the traditions of teaching and learning that most people experienced in their own schooling. Linked together, the two terms gain power, as the argument of the chapter reveals.

The argument opens with accounts of two fundamental dilemmas: the science teacher must come to terms, both practically and theoretically, with the tension between "the curriculum," as content to be covered, and "constructivism," as a process by which students deal with content. People learning to teach science confront an even greater dilemma, perhaps masked by the ease with which we often speak of "putting theory into practice." The most basic dilemma is that generated by the contrast between their personal actions of teaching in schools and the teaching they experience in teacher education classes, and this dilemma must be considered with reference to both

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