On the way to a philosophy of science education

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Science Education
Physics Education
Science Education Reform
Scientific Literacy
Philosophy of Education
Philosophy of Science
Curriculum Theory
Educational Theory
Pedagogical Content Knowledge
Nature of Science
Language Theory
Cognitive Tools

This Thesis argues the case that a philosophy of science education is required for improving science education as a research field as well as curriculum and teacher pedagogy. It seeks to re-think science education as an educational endeavor by examining why past reform efforts have been only partially successful, including why the fundamental goal of achieving scientific literacy after several “reform waves” has proven to be elusive. The identity of such a philosophy is first defined in relation to the fields of philosophy, philosophy of science, and philosophy of education. Considering science education as a research discipline it is emphasized a new field should be broached with the express purpose of developing a discipline-specific “philosophy of science education” (neglected since Dewey). A conceptual shift towards the philosophy of education is needed, thereto, on developing and demarcating true educational theories which could in addition serve to reinforce science education’s growing sense of academic autonomy and independence from socio-economic demands. Two educational metatheories are contrasted, those of Kieran Egan and Northern European Bildung tradition, to illustrate the task of such a philosophy. Egan’s cultural-linguistic metatheory is presented for two primary purposes: it is offered as a possible solution to the deadlock of the science literacy conceptions within the discipline; regarding practice, examples are provided how it can better guide the instructional practice of teachers, specifically how it reinforces the work of other researchers in the History and Philosophy of Science reform movement who value narrative in learning science. Considering curriculum and instruction, a philosophy of science education is conceptualized as a “second order” reflective capacity of the teacher. This notion is aligned with Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. It is argued that for educators the nature of science learning must be informed by a critical examination of curriculum which takes into account the demands of educational metatheory but also the nature of science and nature of language. Two philosophy of science education case studies linked to the latter two are offered: the realism/instrumentalism debate, and the scrutiny of Dewey’s language views from a Gadamerian hermeneutic perspective.

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Senior supervisor: 
Faculty of Education - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)