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When Things Go Wrong

Implementing Historical-Investigative Activities in the Classroom


In this project, we worked in partnership with school teachers who are frequent users of experimental kits available for loan to schools using the historical-investigative approach. The original kits bring a traditional approach to experimentation, without the presence of the history of science. We developed and implemented new guides to the kits, without changing their materials and instruments. Design-based research supports the development methodology; the school science topics covered in this paper are Joseph Black’s studies on latent and specific heat. Although some of the challenges faced in the implementation of historical-investigative approach are known and well-documented, the present article addresses teachers’ perspectives and some of the problems they faced in the implementation process, most of them related to school and teacher working conditions. Even though this is a case study with a small number of schools and teachers, it is possible to say that there is a huge gap to overcome before the historical-investigative approach can be implemented in large scale.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    CDCC is a science center linked to the University and has other sectors such as Library, Cineclub, Internet Access Room, Astronomical Observatory and sectors with exhibits about biology, physics, and chemistry. CDCC promotes courses and workshops to students and teachers, exhibitions, scientific and cultural events, movie sessions, and others activities. All these programs annually receive about 65,000 students and visitors.

  2. 2.

    Three teachers abandoned the project along the way.

  3. 3.

    The original and redesigned versions of the guides can be found in

  4. 4.

    For the activities related to specific and latent heat, please see footnote 3.

  5. 5.

    Besides, we emphasize that the partner teachers already used the experimental kits from Experimentoteca, but the results discussed in this paper were obtained with groups that had never been in the laboratory before.


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We want to show our gratitude to our partner teachers and the reviewers’ contributions to the improvement of the manuscript.


This study was partially funded by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior–Brasil (CAPES) and National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

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Correspondence to Renata da Fonseca Moraes Batista.

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da Fonseca Moraes Batista, R., Silva, C.C. When Things Go Wrong. Sci & Educ 28, 1135–1151 (2019).

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