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Elaborating the structures of a science discipline to improve problem-solving instruction: An account of Classical Genetics' theory structure, function, and development


Situating the conceptual knowledge of a science discipline in the context of its use in the solving of problems allows students the opportunity to develop: a highly structured and functional understanding of the conceptual structure of the discipline; general and discipline-specific problem-solving strategies and heuristics; and insight into the nature of science as an intellectual activity. In order realize these potential learning outcomes, the reconstructions of scientific theories used in problem solving must provide a detailed account of (1) realistic scientific problems and their solutions; (2) problem-solving strategies and patterns of reasoning of disciplinary experts; (3) the various ways that theories function for both disciplinary experts and students; and (4) the way theories, as solutions to realistic scientific problems, develop over time. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to provide further specificity regarding a philosophical reconstruction of the structure of Classical Genetics Theory that can facilitate problem-solving instruction. We analyze syntactic, semantic and problem-based accounts of theory structure with respect to the above criteria and develop a reconstruction that incorporates elements from the latter two. We then describe how that reconstruction can facilitate realistic problem solving on the part of students.

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Hafner, R., Culp, S. Elaborating the structures of a science discipline to improve problem-solving instruction: An account of Classical Genetics' theory structure, function, and development. Sci Educ 5, 331–355 (1996).

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  • Learning Outcome
  • Scientific Theory
  • Realistic Problem
  • Detailed Account
  • Theory Structure