Science & Education

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 169–189 | Cite as

Science Instruction with a Humanistic Twist: Teachers' Perception and Practice in Using the History of Science in Their Classrooms

  • Hsingchi A. Wang
  • David D. Marsh


Scholars have argued that the history of science should be included in the science curriculum because it provides meaningful perspective about scientific concepts, processes, and context. This article begins with a review of efforts to humanize science education by including the history of science, and a review of the rationale for including the history of science in the science education curriculum. The authors then synthesize a conceptual framework for examining the role of the history of science in science education. The framework is organized around realms in the history of science: a) conceptual understanding, b) procedural understanding, and c) contextual understanding, and includes approximately 3 sub-elements within each realm. The framework has been used previously to study the inclusion of the history of science in high school physics textbooks (Wang 1998). In this study, it is used to examine the perceptions and practices of elementary and secondary school teachers in using the history of science in their classrooms. Thirty-eight teachers completed a questionnaire which used Likert scale items to assess their perception of the value of the history of science, and practice in using it in their classroom. A sub-set of teachers were then interviewed to understand the interconnection of these views in more detail. Teachers believe that the inclusion of the history of science should not be used for elementary school students. Teachers who believe in and practice the inclusion of the history of science identify many benefits for their students. However, they believe that it is difficult to include the procedural realm of understanding. The authors conclude that humanizing science isn't a matter of making it fun so much as making it a human and meaningful endeavor.


Science Education Elementary School School Teacher Conceptual Understanding Scientific Concept 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aldridge, B.: 1992, ‘Project on Scope, Sequence, and Coordination: A New Synthesis for Improving Science Education’,Scope, Sequence, and Coordination of Secondary School Science, 2: Relevant Research, NSTA, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  2. American Association for the Advancement of Science: 1993, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  3. Ball, D. L. & Cohen, D. K.: 1996, ‘Reform by the Book: What is–or might be–the Role of Curriculum Materials in Teacher Learning and Instructional Reform?’, Educational Researcher 25(9), 6-8.Google Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. & Walters, R. H.: 1963, Social Learning and Personality Development, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Becker, B. J.: 1997, ‘MindWorks: Making Scientific Concepts Come Alive’, Paper presented at the 1997 History of Science Society Annual Conference, November, 1997. La Jolla, California.Google Scholar
  6. Brush, S. G.: 1974, ‘Should the History of Science be Rated “X”?’, Science 18, 1164-1172.Google Scholar
  7. Bybee, R. W.: 1996, ‘The Contemporary Reform of Science Education’, in J. Rhoton and P. Bowers (eds), Issues in Science Education, NSTA, Arlington, VA, pp. 1-14.Google Scholar
  8. Champagne, A. & Klopfer, L. E.: 1982, ‘Actions in a Time of Crisis’, Science Education 66(4), 503-514.Google Scholar
  9. Conant, J. B.: 1951, On Understanding Science: An Historical Approach, New American Library, New York.Google Scholar
  10. Conant, J. B.: 1957, Harvard Case History in Experimental Science, Vols. 1 & 2, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  11. Conant, J. B.: 1964, ‘Introduction’, in J. B. Conant and L. K. Nash (eds), Harvard Case Histories in Experimental Science, (1), vii-xvi.Google Scholar
  12. DeBoer, G. E.: 1991, A History of Ideas in Science Education: Implications for Practice, Teachers College Press, New York.Google Scholar
  13. Duschl, R. A.: 1990, Restructuring Science Education: The Important of Theories and Their Development, Teacher College Press, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Duschl, R. A.: 1994, ‘Research on the History and Philosophy of Science’, in D. L. Gabel (ed.), Handbook of Research on Science Teaching and Learning, Macmillan, New York, pp. 443-465.Google Scholar
  15. Dyson, F.: 1985, Origins of Life, Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Fowler, F. J.: 1993, Survey Research Methods (7th Ed.), SAGE, Newbury Park, CA.Google Scholar
  17. Gagne, E. D., Yekovich, C. W. & Yekovich, F. R.: 1993, The Cognitive Psychology of School Learning, Harper Collins College Publisher, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Giannetto, E., Tarsitani, C. & Missoni, M. V.: 1991, ‘The Relations between Epistemology, History of Science & Science Teaching from the Point of View of the Research on Mental Representations’, in D. E. Herget (ed.), More History and Philosophy of Science in Science Teaching, Florida State University, FL, pp. 359-374.Google Scholar
  19. Griffiths, A. K. & Barry, M.: 1993, ‘High School Students’Views about the Nature of Science’, School Science and Mathematics 93(1), 35-37.Google Scholar
  20. Holton, G.: Personal communication, November 8, 1997.Google Scholar
  21. Hurd, P. D.: 1973, ‘Integrated Science’, The Science Teacher 40(2), 18-19.Google Scholar
  22. Kaplan, A.: 1964, The Conduct of Inquiry: Methodology for Behavioral Science, Chandler, San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  23. Klopfer, L. E.: 1969, ‘The Teaching of Science and the History of Science’, Journal of Research in Science Teaching 6, 87-95.Google Scholar
  24. Klopfer, L. E. & Watson, F. G.: 1957, ‘Historical Materials and High School Science Teaching’, The Science Teacher 24, 264-265, 292–293.Google Scholar
  25. Kuhn, T. S.: 1970, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  26. Kyle, W. C.: 1991, ‘Curriculum Development Projects of the 1960s’, Research within Research: Science Education 3-24.Google Scholar
  27. Mascolo, R.: 1969, ‘Performance in Conceptualizing: Relationship between Conceptual Framework and Skills of Inquiry’, Journal of Research in Science Teaching 6, 29-35.Google Scholar
  28. Matthews, M. R.: 1994, Science Teaching: The Role of History and Philosophy of Science, Routledge, NY.Google Scholar
  29. Mendelsohn, E., Weingart, P. & Whitley, R.: 1977, The Social Production of Scientific Knowledge, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  30. Miles, M. B. & Huberman, A. M.: 1994, Qualitative Data Analysis, 2nd Ed, SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA.Google Scholar
  31. National Commission on Excellence in Education: 1983, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  32. National Research Council: 1996, National Science Education Standards, National Academy Press, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  33. National Science Teachers Association: 1982, Science-Technology-Society: Science Education for the 1980's, Author, Washington.Google Scholar
  34. New Standards: 1997, Performance Standards, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3, National Center on Education and the Economy, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  35. Pella, M. O., O'Hearn, G. T. & Gale, C. W.: 1966, ‘Scientific Literacy: Its Referents’,The ScienceTeacher 33, 44.Google Scholar
  36. Piaget, J.: 1970, Genetic Epistemology, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  37. Quattropani, D. J.: 1977, An Evaluation of the Effect of Harvard Project Physics on Student Understanding of the Relationships among Science, Technology, and Society, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Connecticut.Google Scholar
  38. Rutherford, F. J. & Ahlgren, A.: 1990, Science for all Americans: Scientific Literacy, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  39. Rutherford, F. J., Holton, G. & Watson, F. G.: 1970, Harvard Project Physics, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York.Google Scholar
  40. Schmidt, W. H., McKnight, C. C. & Raizen, S. A.: 1997, A Splintered Vision: Investigation of U.S. Science and Mathematics Education, Kluwer, Boston.Google Scholar
  41. Schwab, J. J.: 1960, ‘What do Scientists do?’, Behavioral Science 5, 1-27.Google Scholar
  42. Schwab, J. J.: 1962, ‘The Teaching of Science as Enquiry’, in J. J. Schwab & P. F. Brandwein (eds), The Teaching of Science, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp. 3-102.Google Scholar
  43. Schwab, J. J.: 1963, Biology Teacher's Handbook, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  44. Schwab, J. J.: 1964, ‘Science as Enquiry’, in G. W. Ford & L. Pugno (eds), The Structure of Knowledge and the Curriculum, Rand McNally, Chicago.Google Scholar
  45. Snow, C. P.: 1962, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  46. Villani, A. & Arruda, S.: 1998, ‘Special Theory of Relativity, Conceptual Change and History of Science’, Science and Education 7(1), 85-100.Google Scholar
  47. Wandersee, J. H.: 1990, ‘On the Value and Use of the History of Science in Teaching Today's Science: Constructing Historical Vignettes’, in D. E. Herget (ed.), More History and Philosophy of Science in Science Teaching, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, pp. 278-283.Google Scholar
  48. Wandersee, J. H.: 1985, ‘Can the History of Science Help Science Educators Anticipate Students' Misconceptions?’, Journal of Research in Science Teaching 23, 581-597.Google Scholar
  49. Wang, H. A.: 1998, Science in Historical Perspectives: A Content Analysis of the History of Science in Secondary School Physics Textbooks, Doctoral dissertation for the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA.Google Scholar
  50. Wang, H. A. & Marsh, D. D.: 1998, ‘Content Analysis of Curriculum Conceptions in the Science Standards Documents’, Paper submitted to Science Education.Google Scholar
  51. Wartofsky, M. W.: 1968, Conceptual Foundations of Scientific Thought, Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  52. Welch, W. W.: 1973, ‘Review of the Research and Evaluation Program of Harvard Project Physics', Journal of Research in Science Teaching 10, 365-378.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hsingchi A. Wang
    • 1
  • David D. Marsh
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations