The Pupil as Scientist?

The Pupil as Scientist?

The Pupil as Scientist?

The Pupil as Scientist?


The Pupil as Scientist intends to give teachers and student teachers a better understanding of the thinking of young adolescent pupils in science lessons and to indicate the difficulties such pupils have in understanding the more abstract or formal ideas with which they are presented. It is practical in its orientation as the issues discussed are illustrated with examples drawn from dialogue and observations made in science classes.

One of Rosalind Driver's main themes is that science teachers must recognise more fully and act upon the preconceptions and alternative frameworks which pupils bring to their study of science.

Despite is practical orientation, the book addresses some fundamental questions arguing for a reappraisal of science teaching in secondary schools in the light of developments in cognitive psychology and philosophy of science.

This is an accessible, authoritative and very helpful book for all concerned with the teaching of science in the secondary years.


Discovery methods in science teaching put pupils in the role of investigator, giving them opportunities to perform experiments and test ideas for themselves. What actually happens in classrooms when this approach is used? Although, of course, pupils’ ideas are less sophisticated than those of practising scientists, some interesting parallels can be drawn. The work of Thomas Kuhn indicates that, once a scientific theory or paradigm becomes established, scientists as a community are slow to change their thinking. Pupils, like scientists, view the world through the spectacles of their own preconceptions, and many have difficulty in making the journey from their own intuitions to the ideas presented in science lessons.

This book is an attempt to describe events along the path of the pupil as scientist. Its intention is to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. It contains many examples of pupils’ dialogue and written work. Most of the examples were collected while making a study over a 4-month period of a science class at the University of Illinois Curriculum Laboratory. As the excerpts indicate, the teacher encouraged the class to investigate phenomena and to make their own inferences. In order to indicate in some detail the development in pupils’ thinking, a small group of pupils was selected for detailed study.

Further examples from other science lessons have also been used. Most of these are examples of pupils’ work from classes I have observed or taught myself.

The first chapter of the book makes the case that pupils do come to science lessons with already formulated ideas, or alternative frameworks, and that these may be at variance . . .

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