chapter  3
2 Cultural perspectives on the teaching and learning of science
Pages 15

The enduring problems in science education recently have been cast in terms of

new theoretical frames. In the past decade, constructivism has been mentioned

increasingly in the definitions of problems and their solutions (Tobin 1993). In

many contexts (e.g. requests for proposals issued by funding agencies)

constructivism, which is a way of thinking about knowledge and coming to know,

was prescribed as a mandatory way of thinking about teaching and learning

science. There was a tendency to equate constructivism with particular activities

rather than a way of thinking about knowing and coming to know. Teachers were

exhorted to employ constructivist ways of teaching by arranging students in small

groups and providing them with greater autonomy. Trends such as these not only

diminish the power of constructivism as a way of thinking but also take the focus off

critical dimensions of teaching and learning. Instead of examining any activity and

asking how it might be improved by thinking about learning from a constructivist

perspective, there has been a tendency, for example, to advocate small-group

activities over whole-class activities and student-focused activities over teacher-

focused activities.