Science & Education

, Volume 27, Issue 1–2, pp 39–61 | Cite as

Goethe’s Conception of “Experiment as Mediator” and Implications for Practical Work in School Science

  • Wonyong Park
  • Jinwoong Song


There has been growing criticism over the aims, methods, and contents of practical work in school science, particularly concerning their tendency to oversimplify the scientific practice with focus on the hypothesis-testing function of experiments. In this article, we offer a reading of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s scientific writings—particularly his works on color as an exquisite articulation of his ideas about experimentation—through the lens of practical school science. While avoiding the hasty conclusions made from isolated experiments and observations, Goethe sought in his experiments the interconnection among diverse natural phenomena and rejected the dualistic epistemology about the relation of humans and nature. Based on a close examination of his color theory and its underlying epistemology, we suggest three potential contributions that Goethe’s conception of scientific experimentation can make to practical work in school science.



We thank Ken Kawasaki and the four anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments on the earlier versions of this paper.

Funding Information

This work was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education (NRF-2016S1A3A2925401).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics EducationSeoul National UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Center for Educational ResearchSeoul National UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

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