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Pragmatism—John Dewey

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Science Education in Theory and Practice

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Abstract

Pragmatism (or Instrumentalism or Experimentalism) has been described as ‘an attitude’, ‘a theory of the nature of ideas and truth’, and ‘a theory about reality’. In this chapter, Pragmatism, both in its wider sense, as a ‘theory of truth’, and in its narrower sense, as a ‘method’, are explored. The chapter begins by looking at the origins of Pragmatism—as envisioned by Peirce—and reviews both Peirce’s and Dewey’s interpretations of terms such as inquiry and experience. The chapter then moves on to examine the meaning Dewey attached to the term ‘Pragmatism’. Dewey’s revolutionary view of the structure of knowledge as an action ‘which modifies what previously existed’ (rather than as a static, unchanging system) is explained through a discussion of the ways in which meaning (the precursor of knowledge) may be activated—i.e. through the processes of experiencing, thinking, and communicating, we interact with our environment (to change it, be changed by it, and… come to understand it). Links are made between Pragmatism, as a philosophical ‘movement’, and Dewey’s ideas on experience and inquiry as forming the basis for undertaking research. I reflect on the impact Pragmatism has had on teaching and learning science in schools, with particular emphasis on Inquiry-Based Science Education (as set out by publications such as Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, 2000; Next Generation Science Standards, 2013). The chapter closes with the implications Pragmatism holds for what Dewey calls the educative process.

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Correspondence to Fran Riga .

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Further Reading

Further Reading

Biesta, G. J. (1994). Education as practical intersubjectivity: Towards a critical-pragmatic understanding of education. Educational Theory, 44(3), 299–317.

Biesta, G. J. J. (1995). Pragmatism as a pedagogy of communicative action. In J. Garrison (Ed.), The new scholarship on John Dewey. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington: The National Academies Press. http://nap.edu/13165.

Dewey, J. (1908). What does pragmatism mean by practical? The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 5(4), 85–99.

Eames, S. M. (2003). Experience and value: Essays on John Dewey and pragmatic naturalism. In E. R. Eames & R. W. Field (Eds.). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Khasawneh, O. M., Miqdadi, R. M., & Hijazi, A. Y. (2014). Implementing pragmatism and John Dewey’s educational philosophy in Jordanian public schools. Journal of International Education Research, 10(1), 37.

Next Generation Science Standards. (2013). https://www.nextgenscience.org/.

Sleeper, R. W. (2001). The necessity of pragmatism: John Dewey’s conception of philosophy. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Vanderstraeten, R., & Biesta, G. (2006). How is education possible? Pragmatism, communication and the social organisation of education. British Journal of Educational Studies, 54(2), 160–174.

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Riga, F. (2020). Pragmatism—John Dewey. In: Akpan, B., Kennedy, T.J. (eds) Science Education in Theory and Practice. Springer Texts in Education. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-43620-9_16

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-43620-9_16

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-43619-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-43620-9

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