The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education

The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education

The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education

The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education


This volume provides a needed elaboration of theories and potential applications of constructivism in science education. Although the term "constructivism" is used widely, there has been a dearth of materials to guide science educators concerning the potential of constructivism to influence what is done in the field. In fact, there has been a tendency for constructivism to be viewed as a method that can be used in a classroom. This view tends to diminish the power of constructivism as a way of thinking about education, and in particular, about science education. The chapters in this book address the need to document the theoretical roots of constructivism and to describe how practitioners have applied constructivist oriented beliefs in the practice of K-12 teaching of science and mathematics, as well as teacher education. Not only does this book contain different theoretical perspectives on constructivism, but it also features a chapter that critiques constructivism as an epistemology. Specific topics covered include:
• cooperative learning,
• the negotiation of meaning,
• problem centered learning,
• social construction of knowledge,
• science in culturally diverse settings,
• curriculum planning and implementation, and
• instructional technology. Issues associated with the preparation and enhancement of science teachers and the reform of science education are also explored.


Currently there is a paradigm war raging in education. Evidence of conflict is seen in nearly every facet of educational practice. At the base of this conflict are the referents used by educators to identify problems, give operational meaning to them, develop a plan to solve them, formulate solutions, and reform policies and procedures. Traditional approaches to educational reform have been built on a platform of objectives that has assumed that problems exist independently of those who perceive them. As a consequence, the traditional approach to problem solving, broadly conceived across the domains of research and educational practices such as testing, administration, and resource development, often is to seek objective solutions and to identify causal relationships among salient variables. Whereas some would argue that traditional practices have served us well and should be maintained, others have argued for a change in epistemology and have endeavored to break away from conventional practices. The resistance to change from those in authority within the educational culture has often been strong. Nevertheless, the revolution has progressed steadily and there is evidence of widespread acceptance of alternatives to objectivism, one of which is constructivism, the focus of this book.

Although constructivism is not a new epistemology, its use has become increasingly popular as a referent for professional actions in the past 10 years. In response to the increasing use of constructivism, a symposium was planned for the 1991 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This meeting provided the stimulus for the book, which is, in part, based on papers presented at that conference together with chapters from science and mathematics educators who have used constructivism in their professional activities. The book consists of 19 chapters arranged into four sections that focus on the nature of constructivism, constructivism and the teaching and learning of science, constructivist perspectives on teacher education, and conclusions.

To avoid the cumbersome nature of gender-neutral pronouns such as his/ her, the female form is used throughout this book.


The first section of the book consists of five chapters on the nature of constructivism. In the introductory chapter Deborah Tippins and I explore the . . .

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