Psychology and epistemology: Match or mismatch when applied to science education?

Richard A. Duschl, Richard Hamilton, Richard E. Grandy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Cognitive psychology's descriptions of an individual's knowledge resemble those philosophers’ offer of scientific theory. Both offer resources for conceptual change teaching. Yet the similarities mask tensions ‐philosophers stress rationality and psychologists focus on causal structure. Both domains distinguish two kinds of change in knowledge structures‐one common and cumulative, the other rare and non‐cumulative. The structures facilitate incremental development but resist major revisions. Unless instruction actively induces restructuring, students’ knowledge will be confused and incomplete. Knowledge is largely organized by schemata, representing the significant concepts and relations in a domain. But using knowledge also requires procedures for recalling, applying and revising schemata. Questions discussed include: When should we present a theory in the context of justification‐‐where knowledge claims are systematically but a historically delineated; and when in the context of development‐‐where knowledge claims are initially developed? How can prototypical examples facilitate schema acquisition and appropriate retrieval? How can individuals be made active participants in the restructuring process? How can the need for restructuring be motivated? To what extent should we stress the historical and rational development of modern science? Are educators prepared to employ complex teaching strategies identified by researchers? To what extent do students’ naive theories parallel early stages of science?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-243
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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