Introduction to Science Education


Introduction to Science Education [Semester – I (August – December 07-08)]

Credits: 2

Instructors: Jayashree Ramadas and Sharada Gade

Duration: Oct - Dec


Schedule for course:

  • Unit 1 and 2: Oct.29-Nov.3

  • Unit 3 and 4: Nov.5-10

  • Unit 5 and 6: Nov.12-17


The vastness of scope of a field such as Science Education is being tailored in this course to address and allow deliberation on the possibility of attaining positive learning environments for science, guided by recent findings in research and drawing on the practioner’s /student’s field experience on the ground. The objective of such a focus is with an intention of stimulating discussion on what science education could be for students, teachers and researchers beyond what science education should be, in search for effective tools and implementable models.

Syllabus guidelines:

  1. The nature of science: How is science different from or similar to other forms of knowledge production? How do you distinguish between science and pseudo-science, good and bad science? Is there ‘a’ science and/or ‘a’ scientific method? Traditional philosophies of science and their contributions to the definitions of science and ‘scientific’ method(s) (Kuhn, Popper, Lakatos, etc.) Impact on nature of science education.

  2. Science and society: Issues of representations of caste, race, gender within science. Critiques arising from people’s engagements with science – environment, reproductive health and people’s science. New definitions of science and issues around it emerging. Debates on indigenous, non Western science and issues of historiography from there. Newer critiques and voices: cultural, relativist, feminist. Implication for science education.

  3. Cognition and learning: the concept of conceptual change and its analysis, impact of research on school practice, images of science as reasoning, theory change and practice with their implications for education and development, juxtaposing children’s and teachers science, authoritative and dialogic functions of classroom discourse, learning science through models, theories and concepts in the classroom

  4. Aims of science education: education through science and education in science, unresolved tensions and curriculum issues, gender and technology issues, affect and interest in teaching science, scientific literacy: scientific processes, scientific concepts and situations

  5. Innovations in science education: What are the main curricular debates in primary, middle and high school science? How are science curricula and textbooks constructed and what concerns have informed curriculum inquiry into science education. The above to be discussed in the context of recent innovative programs e.g. HSTP, HBCSE (Small Science), NCF (2005)

  6. Student and program assessment and evaluation: Assessing what children say, do, record, achieve and attain, formative and summative assessments and evaluation, issues of transfer and accountability, testing and helping schools to improve, assessing students knowledge construction in task settings, one case study of program evaluation


The literature given below is divided into three sections A, B and C.

  1. The literature mentioned in this section is compulsory reading and will guide the students through the content of the various sections of the syllabus.

  1. The nature of science:

    1. Matthews, Michael (1998). "The Nature of Science and Science Teaching' in History and Philosophy of Science' in "International Handbook of Science Education' by B.J. Fraser and K.G.Tobin ( eds), Kluwer Academic Publishers (981-999).

    2. McComas, William, Clough, Michael and Almazroa, Hiya (1998). "The Role and Character of the Nature of Science in Science Education" in W. F. McComas (ed) "The Nature of Science in Science Education". Kluwer Academic Publishers (3-39).

    3. Dolby, R. G. A. (1996). "Uncertain Knowledge: An Image of Science for a Changing World" Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (157-189).

    4. Elkana, Yehuda (2000). "Science, Philosophy of Science and Science Teaching" Science and Education 9: 463-485.

  1. Science and society:

    1. Mulkay, Michael(1979). Science and the Sociology of Knowledge,  pages 1-62.

    2. Keller, Evelyn Fox (1985). "Reflections on Gender and Science". Yale University Press: New Haven (3-13, 17-20, 69-73, 129-138).

    3. Harding, Sandra (1991). "Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women's Lives". Cornell University Press: New York (296-312).

    4. Longino, Helen E. (1989). "Can there be a Feminist Science?" in "Feminism and Science" by Nancy Tuana (ed). Indiana University Press: Bloomington (45-57).

    5. Raina, Dhruv (2006). "Towards a Global History of Science: The Relationship between Science, its History and Theory of History" in "Sites and Practices: An Exercise in Cultural Pedagogy" by Madhusree Dutta and Smriti Nevatia (eds) Majlis: Mumbai (232-242).

    6. Nanda, Meera (1997). "Against Social Deconstruction of Science: Cautionary Tales from the Third World". Monthly Review.

  2. Cognition and learning:

  1. Duit and Treagust (2003): Conceptual change – a powerful framework for improving science teaching and learning

  2. Gilbert et al (1982): Children’s science and its consequences for teaching

  3. Gilbert and Boulter (1998): Learning science through models and modeling

  4. Lehrer and Schauble (2006): Scientific thinking and science literacy (only 156-160)

  5. Scott (1998): Teacher talk and meaning making in science classrooms (only 83-93)

  6. Carr et al (1994): The constructivist paradigm and some implications for science content and pedagogy (Chapter in Fensham, Gunstone and White)

  1. Aims of science education:

  1. Alsop (2005): The importance of affect in science education

  2. OECD (2004): Scientific literacy (Chapter in The RoutledgeFalmer Reader in Science Education edited by Gilbert)

  3. Woolnough (1994): Aims and unresolved tensions (Chapter in book, 11-26)

  1. Innovations in science education:

  1. Position Paper on Science, NCERT, (2005)

  2. NCF, NCERT, (2005)

  3. amadas, J. (2004). 'Science and Technology Education in South Asia' in Jenkins, E. W. (ed.) Innovations in Science and Technology Education, Vol.8. Paris: UNESCO.

  4. Qualter, A. (1996). Differentiated Primary Science (Chapters 1 and 2).  Exploring Primary Science and Technology (Series Editor Brian Woolnough) Buckingham, U.K. and Philadelphia, U.S.A: Open University Press.

  1. Student and program assessment:

  1. Black (2004): Purposes for assessment (Chapter in The RoutledgeFalmer Reader in Science Education edited by Gilbert)

  2. Carre and Owens (1994) Assessing processes and content (Chapter in their book)

  3. Erickson and Meywe (1998) Performance assessment tasks in science: what are they measuring (Chapter in book edited by Fraser and Tobin)

  4. Harlen, W. and Allende, J. E. (eds.)(2007). 'IBSE in operation: Goals and implementation' in the Report of the Working Group on International Collaboration in the Evaluation of IBSE Programmes. Santiago, Chile: Inter Academy Panel.

  1. In comparison to literature in section A, the articles in this section contain extended, specific and in-depth arguments. As part of their assessments students will be asked to choose any one article of this list and make a presentation, followed by a short essay/writing. In choosing separate articles to present, it is envisaged that all students will gain familiarity with a variety of in-depth issues in science education in addition to a broad overview.

  1. The nature of science:

    1. Loving, Cathleen C. and William W. Cobern (2000). "Invoking Thomas Kuhn: What Citation Analysis Reveals About Science Education'. Science and Education 9: 187-206.

    2. Motterlini, Matteo (1999). Introduction: A Dialogue". in "For and Against Method: Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend" by Matteo Motterlini (ed). University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

    3. Michael Matthews (1982). "The Marxist Theory of Schooling: A study of Epistemology and Education'. Harvester Press: Sussex (58-77).

  1. Science and society:

    1. Poonacha, Veena and Gopal, Meena (2004). "Women and Science: An Examination of Women's Access to and Retention in Scientific Careers". RCWS: Mumbai.

    2. Subramaniam, Banu (2004). "And the Mirror Cracked: Reflections of Natures and Cultures" in Feminist Science Studies by Maralee Mayberry, Banu Subramaniam and Lisa H. Weasel (ed). Routledge, New York.

    3. Bug, Amy (2003). "Has Feminism Changed Physics?" Signs Volume 28: 881-900.

  2. Cognition and learning:

    1. Collins and Genter (1987): How people construct mental models

    2. Chinn and Brewer (1998): Theories of knowledge acquisition

    3. Harrison and Treagust (2006): Teaching and learning with analogies – friend or foe?

    4. Metz (1998): Scientific inquiry within reach of young children

  3. Aims of science education:

    1. Lewin (2000) : Mapping Science Education Policy in Developing Countries

    2. Mathew and Mollykutty (2006): Aims and objectives of teaching science (Chapter in their book Science Education – Theoretical bases of teaching and pedagogical analysis)

    3. Sangwan (1990): Science education in India under colonial constraints 1792-1857

  4. Innovations in science education:

    1. See relevant textbooks and curricular documents

  5. Student and program assessment:

    1. Hodson (2004): Time for action – science education for an alternative future (Chapter in their book Science Education – Theoretical bases of teaching and pedagogical analysis)

    2. Mintzes et al (2000): Assessing science understanding: a human constructivist view

    3. IAP working group (2006): Evaluation of Inquiry-based science education programs

  1. The literature in this section comprises of short books of about 150 to 200 pages, allowing for students to follow the arguments of any one author(s) and theme in entirety. As part of their assessment students will make a choice of any one book and submit a short essay/writing.

    1. Bruner (1990): Acts of meaning

    2. Bruner, J (1997). The culture of education

    3. Carre and Ovens (1994): Science 7-11: Developing primary teaching skills

    4. Chalmers. A. F. (1994): What is this called science? An assessment of the nature and status of science and its methods

    5. Donaldson (1986): Children’s minds

    6. Duckworth, E. (1987). The Having of Wonderful Ideas" and other Essays on teaching and learning. NY: Teacher’s College Press

    7. Edwards, D and Mercer, N (1987): Common Knowledge: The development of understanding in the classroom

    8. Kuhn, T (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

    9. Lave and Wenger (1991): Situated learning - legitimate peripheral participation

    10. Luria (1979): Cognitive development - its cultural and social foundations

    11. Medawar. (1986). The Limits of Science. Oxford University Press.

    12. Newman, Griffith and Cole (1989): The construction zone - working for cognitive change in school Okasha (2002): Philosophy of science - a very short introduction

    13. Rogoff (1990): Apprenticeship in thinking

    14. Vygotsky (1978): Mind in society

    15. Woolnough (1994): Effective Science teaching

    16. Shiva, Vandana (????) Structure of Green Revolution

    17. Dolby (1996) Uncertain Knowledge

    18. Motterlini, Matteo (1999). For and Against Method

    19. Nanda Meera (????) Prophet facing backwards

    20. Spring 2003 issues of ‘Signs’

Manner of assessment

There are four assignments that will be submitted at the end of Nov ’07, Dec ’07, Jan ’07 and Feb ’07 that will together constitute assessment of the student:


  1. Term paper (40% weightage): Based on the breadth of readings in section A, students will submit by 29th February 2008, a 2000-2500 word reasoned critique based on any one of the following science curricula:

      1. Australia (1998): Curriculum Framework

      2. Canada (2002): The Ontario Curriculum

      3. India (2005): NCERT position paper on science

      4. India (1972-2002): HSTP curriculum for science

      5. India (1998-2004): HBCSE curriculum for science

      6. New Zealand (1993): Science in the New Zealand Curriculum

      7. Nuffield (1998): Beyond 2000 -Science Education for the future

  2. Personal reflection (20% weightage): Based on the entire course, students submit by 31st January 2008, a 1000 word essay/writing offering a practitioner’s / student’s personal reflection addressing the following in their writing:

      1. nature of practitioners/students qualifications and background brought to teaching-learning

      2. opportunities for creating learning environments for science that one’s school or institution provides/provided

      3. relevance of the papers to the kind of learning environments that could be brought about in the classroom

      4. important and relevant issues in relation to the practitioner’s / student’s teaching-learning that the papers fall short of

  3. Presentation during contact period followed by short essay (20% weightage): Students make a choice of any one article from section B of the literature and make a 20 minute presentation during the contact period, allowing for a 10 minute discussion to follow. Students are free to make power point presentations or use transparencies. Subsequent to the presentation in the contact period, students will submit by 30th November 2007, a 1000 word essay/writing on the selection made.

  4. Essay to be submitted any time during the course (20% weightage): Students submit by 31st December 2007, a 1000 word essay/writing on any one book chosen from section C of literature. The essay needs to address the following: practitioner’s/student’s reasons for choosing the book, what arguments the practioner/student thought were made in the book and finally the applicability or inapplicability of those arguments to the teaching-learning praxis of science.   

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