Science & Education

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 287-307

First online:

History and Philosophy of Science through Models: The Case of Chemical Kinetics

  • Rosária JustiAffiliated withUniversidade Federal de Minas Gerais
  • , John K. GilbertAffiliated withFaculty of Education and Community Studies, The University of Reading

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The case for a greater role for the history and philosophy of science in science education is reviewed. It is argued that such a role can only be realised if it is based on both a credible analytical approach to the history and philosophy of science and if the evolution of a sufficient number of major themes in science is known in suitable detail. Adopting Lakatos' Theory of Scientific Research Programmes as the analytical approach, it is proposed that the development, use, and replacement, of specific models forms the core of such programmes.

Chemical kinetics was selected as an exemplar major topic in chemistry. Eight models which have played a central role in the evolution of the study of chemical kinetics were identified by an analysis of the literature. The implications that these models have for the teaching and learning of chemistry today are discussed.