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Science & Education

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 561–580 | Cite as

An explicit and reflective approach to the use of history to promote understanding of the nature of science

  • David W. RudgeEmail author
  • Eric M. Howe
Article

Abstract

Monk and Osborne (Sci Educ 81:405–424, 1997) provide a rigorous justification for why history and philosophy of science should be incorporated as an integral component of instruction and a model for how history of science should be used to promote learning of and about science. In the following essay we critique how history of science is used on this model, and in particular, their advocacy of a direct comparison of students’ conceptions of scientific phenomena with those of past scientists. We propose instead an alternative approach that promotes a more active engagement by inviting students to engage in the sort of reasoning that led past scientists to reach insights about scientific phenomena. As an example we describe in detail two lesson plans taken from an eight-class unit developed with reference to the history of research on sickle-cell anemia. These lessons demonstrate how an open-ended, problem-solving approach can be used to help students deepen their understanding of science. Throughout the unit students are invited to explicitly and reflectively consider the implications of their reasoning about the disease for their understanding of nature of science issues. The essay draws attention to how this alternative approach actually more closely aligns with the constructivist rationale Monk and Osborne have articulated. It concludes with a brief summary of empirical research demonstrating the efficacy of this approach.

Keywords

Anthony Allison HBD Kettlewell History of science Nature of science Sickle-cell anemia William Harvey 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank our colleagues Uric C. Geer, Charles Henderson, David Schuster, Renée Schwartz, Aletta Zietsman-Thomas, and R. Paul Vellom for their constructive criticism of an earlier draft of this paper. We also acknowledge advice on the lesson plans and empirical study mentioned above from the members of Eric Howe’s dissertation committee: Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, Anthony C. Allison, William Cobern, and Robert Poel. We especially thank Uric C. Geer for his invaluable assistance in conducting the interviews associated with the empirical study mentioned above.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA
  2. 2.Department of EducationAssumption CollegeWorcesterUSA

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