Science & Education

, Volume 25, Issue 7–8, pp 775–794 | Cite as

Knowledge, Belief, and Science Education

A Contribution from the Epistemology of Testimony
  • Tiago Alfredo S. Ferreira
  • Charbel N. El-HaniEmail author
  • Waldomiro José da Silva-Filho


This article intends to show that the defense of “understanding” as one of the major goals of science education can be grounded on an anti-reductionist perspective on testimony as a source of knowledge. To do so, we critically revisit the discussion between Harvey Siegel and Alvin Goldman about the goals of science education, especially where it involves arguments based on the epistemology of testimony. Subsequently, we come back to a discussion between Charbel N. El-Hani and Eduardo Mortimer, on the one hand, and Michael Hoffmann, on the other, striving to strengthen the claim that rather than students’ belief change, understanding should have epistemic priority as a goal of science education. Based on these two lines of discussion, we conclude that the reliance on testimony as a source of knowledge is necessary to the development of a more large and comprehensive scientific understanding by science students.


Science Teaching Science Teacher Critical Thinking Scientific Theory True Belief 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Harvey Siegel, Ben McMyler, Michael Hoffmann, and two anonymous reviewers, who made valuable criticisms and comments on a previous version of this article, which greatly contributed to its improvement. We are also thankful to Nei Nunes-Neto, Rosileia Oliveira Almeida, Carlos Augusto Sartori, and Tiegue Vieira Rodrigues for their comments, which also contributed to improving the paper. We are also indebted to two anonymous reviewers who brought important contributions to the final version of the paper. We are thankful to the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for the support to the research who led to this paper, through Grants Nos. 301259/2010-0 (CNEH) and 312567/2013-8 (WJSF). We also thank the Brazilian Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) for the Research Fellowship No. 002706/2015-06 (TASF).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyFederal University of Bahia, BrazilFederação, SalvadorBrazil
  2. 2.History, Philosophy, and Biology Teaching Lab (LEFHBio), Institute of BiologyFederal University of Bahia, BrazilOndina, SalvadorBrazil
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyFederal University of Bahia, BrazilFederação, SalvadorBrazil
  4. 4.Department of Linguistics and PhilosophyMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)CambridgeUSA

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