A Vision for Science Education: Responding to the Work of Peter Fensham

A Vision for Science Education: Responding to the Work of Peter Fensham

A Vision for Science Education: Responding to the Work of Peter Fensham

A Vision for Science Education: Responding to the Work of Peter Fensham

Synopsis

One of the most important and consistent voices in the reform of science education over the last thirty years has been that of Peter Fensham. His vision of a democratic and socially responsible science education for all has inspired change in schools and colleges throughout the world. Often moving against the tide, Fensham travelled the world to promote his radical ideology. He was appointed Australia's first Professor of Science Education, and was later made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of his work in this new and emerging field of study. In this unique book, leading science educators from around the world examine and discuss Fensham's key ideas. Each describes how his arguments, proposals and recommendations have affected their own practice, and extend and modify his message in light of current issues and trends in science education. The result is a vision for the future of science teaching internationally. Academics, researchers and practitioners in science education around the world will find this book a fascinating insight into the life and work of one of the foremost pioneers in science education. The book will also make inspiring reading for postgraduate students of science education.

Excerpt

In 1957 some of the world's greatest scientists heeded the call of Albert Einstein and Bertand Russell and met in the little town of Pugwash in Nova Scotia in Canada to discuss the fate of the world. So began the Pugwash Conferences of concerned scientists from around the world. At this and subsequent meetings scientists, almost unwittingly, acknowledged the enormous changes that had occurred in science as a result of two world wars (sometimes referred to as the 'Chemists' War' and the 'Physicists' War', respectively). Scientists were now thrust upon the world stage as actors in the decisions that would affect the fate of the world as we know it. The threat of rising levels of global radio-activity, especially strontium-90, galvanised Linus Pauling and others-thereby destroying the myth of a value-free science.

A 30-year-old Peter Fensham had, by this time, completed PhD degrees in both the physical and social sciences, and he had returned to his home town of Melbourne to become a physical scientist. As an academic scientist he did not fit the usual mould. Almost immediately (see Chapter 1) Peter Fensham showed his true colours by becoming a leading figure in Australia's own Pugwash movement. He was warned that involvement in such a movement might well be dangerous for a young scientist hoping to make his way through the ranks. What his friendly advisor did not realise was that Peter's career would take a curious turn away from research and teaching in the physical sciences into the muddy waters of research in, and reform of, science education. What was to become typical of Peter's work in the new and emerging field of science education research was the marrying of a strong sense of a democratic and collaborative approach to the solution of the difficulties science teachers found in their own classrooms and a grand vision for how people around the world might benefit from learning science at school. This perhaps unique attribute has helped Peter to connect with so many different cultural groups. They, like the authors of these chapters, recognised that this man saw through the petty barriers that divide different people, that the common good was also their good. That, I contend, is why we have collectively recognised the importance of his work and feel that it has much to say for the development of science education in the coming decades. While we recognise that Peter Fensham's work is not yet over, the major part of his corpus of work is now available

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