Science & Education

, Volume 28, Issue 1–2, pp 25–43 | Cite as

Bringing Inferentialism to Science Education

  • Edward CaustonEmail author


In this article, I introduce Robert Brandom’s inferentialism as an alternative to common representational interpretations of constructivism in science education. By turning our attention away from the representational role of conceptual contents and toward the norms governing their use in inferences, we may interpret knowledge as a capacity to engage in a particular form of social activity, the game of giving and asking for reasons. This capacity is not readily reduced to a diagrammatic structure defining the knowledge to be acquired. By considering the application of these ideas to the concept of electrical current and the use of analogies in science education, I hope to illustrate how they may be given practical employment as the child comes to explore within the concepts derived from historical scientific endeavours and not merely meander through her individual experiences of scientific phenomena themselves. In moving away from the representational role of analogy, our focus shifts from the quality of the analogy itself toward the quality of the discourse utilising the analogy.



I would like to thank Professor Jan Derry for introducing me to many of the ideas discussed in this article and for her invaluable assistance in its preparation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nottingham Trent International CollegeNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Wimborne, DorsetUK

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