chapter  2
2 Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom
Pages 7

The core commitment of a constructivist position, that knowledge is not trans-

mitted directly from one knower to another, but is actively built up by the learner,

is shared by a wide range of different research traditions relating to science educa-

tion. One tradition focuses on personal construction of meanings and the many

informal theories that individuals develop about natural phenomena (Carey 1985;

Carmichael et al. 1990; Pfundt and Duit 1985) as resulting from learners’ personal

interactions with physical events in their daily lives (Piaget 1970). Learning in

classroom settings, from this perspective, is seen to require well-designed prac-

tical activities that challenge learners’ prior conceptions, encouraging them to

reorganize their personal theories. A different tradition portrays the knowledge-

construction process as coming about through learners being encultured into

scientific discourses (e.g. Edwards andMercer 1987; Lemke 1990). Yet others see it

as involving apprenticeship into scientific practices (Rogoff and Lave 1984). Our

own work has focused on the study of ways in which school students’ informal

knowledge is drawn upon and interacts with the scientific ways of knowing intro-

duced in the classroom (e.g. Johnston and Driver 1990; Scott 1993; Scott and

Emberton 1994). Clearly there is a range of accounts of the processes by which

knowledge construction takes place. Some clarification of these distinct perspec-

tives and how they may interrelate appears to be needed.