Constructivist Approaches to Science Teaching
Rosalind Driver University of Leeds, England
An extensive literature, built up in recent years, indicates that children develop ideas about natural phenomena before they are taught science in school ( Driver et al., 1985; Gentner & Stevens, 1983; Helm & Novak, 1983; Jung, Pfundt, & Rhoneck, 1982; Pfundt & Duit, 1991). In some instances, these ideas (variously described as preconceptions, misconceptions, intuitions, alternative conceptions, alternative frameworks, naive theories) are in keeping with the science that is taught. In many cases, however, there are significant differences between children's notions and school science.
Surveys undertaken in various countries have identified commonalities in children's ideas, and developmental studies are giving helpful insights into the characteristic ways in which these ideas progress during the childhood years ( Carey, 1985; Strauss & Stavy, 1982). In-depth investigations indicate that such ideas are more than simply pieces of misinformation; children have ways of construing events and phenomena that are coherent within their domains of experience, yet they may differ substantially from the scientific view. Studies also indicate that these notions may persist into adulthood despite formal teaching ( Viennot, 1979).
It is becoming commonplace for the ideas or conceptions that children develop about the world around them to be interpreted from a constructivist perspective. However, there are different interpretations of what this term means.