, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 203-226

Should physicists preach what they practice?

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Abstract

Does one need to think like a scientist to learn science? To what extent can examining the cognitive activities of scientists provide insights for developing effective pedagogical practices? The cognition and instruction literature has focused on providing a model of expert knowledge structures. To answer these questions, what is needed is a model of expert reasoning practices. This analysis is a step in that direction. It focuses on a tacit dimension of the thinking practices of expert physicists, “constructive modeling”. Drawing on studies of historical cases and protocol accounts of expert reasoning in scientific problem solving, it is argued that having expertise in physics requires facility with the practice of “constructive modeling” that includes the ability to reason with models viewed generically. Issues pertaining to why and how this practice of experts might be incorporated into teaching are explored.