Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 297–328 | Cite as

Conceptual change: a discussion of theoretical, methodological and practical challenges for science education



Conceptual change views of teaching and learning processes in science, and also in various other content domains, have played a significant role in research on teaching and learning as well as in instructional design since the late 1970s. An important issue is whether conceptual change can provide a powerful framework for improving instructional practice in such a way that students’ levels of scientific literacy are significantly increased. In this article, the first section provides an overview on the development of conceptual change perspectives. In sections two to six, we examine the different ways that researchers have facilitated the collection of data and empirically evaluated learning as conceptual change based on these different theoretical perspectives. In section seven, we identify key issues of conceptual change with a deliberate emphasis on their contribution to improve instructional practice and conclude the article by posing challenges at theoretical, methodological and practical levels. We contend that conceptual change perspectives still have the potential to significantly improve instructional practice. However, it becomes also evident that actual practice is far from what conceptual change perspectives propose and that change of this practice will be a rather difficult and long-lasting process.


Conceptual change Science education Epistemology Ontology Affective domain 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science and Mathematics Education CentreCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  2. 2.IPN—Leibniz Institute for Science Education at the University of KielKielGermany

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