Culture as an analog for individual

In developing curricula for science education we base our work in part on the misconceptions students bring with them to the classroom. As part of my research I examine classroom science practice, and in particular the practice of one exceptional Chemistry teacher that is a part of my research group. He has infused his curricula, which he developed from scratch by himself, with a great deal of the history of chemistry. One of the units he does on burning involves having students do a series of experiments and then they are asked to draw on these experiments to support or refute phlogisten theory. This got me thinking about curriculum development and its relationship to the history of a field.

My question is: has there ever been a curricula designed (in science or not) that uses the historical development of ideas in a field as a analog to help structure activities in a classroom?  For example, in Physics this would start with the Aristotelian ideas that are considered core misconceptions current students have when entering Physics classes. You would design a set of experiences that challenge these core Aristotelian misconceptions. Then work through the ideas that Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, etc. in response to particular problems. The idea is not to focus on the history per se, but on the problems in the disciplines that great scientists grappled with and solved.  For example, using the data that supported a geocentric model of the universe, what were the weaknesses of the model, and what was the final piece of data that caused the revolution to a heliocentric universe.

To analogize to learning theory, you could view the revolutionary moments in the development of a science discipline as a reorganization of the facts of the field analogous to an accomodation in conceptual change. In this way you can use a map of the history of the discipline as a sort of roadmap to the likely development of an individual’s understanding of the discipline. The development of scientific disciplinary culture becomes an analog for the development of individual understanding of the ideas of that culture.

I know there have been curricula that focus on the history of science and primary source readings, but has anyone every considered history as an analogical guide for curriculum development? Thoughts would be appreciated.


~ by sbmcdon on April 26, 2007.

2 Responses to “Culture as an analog for individual”

  1. I would like to see a continuation of the topic

  2. Please continue blogging.

    I came across your blog while searching for McEduction on Google, high came to mind while reading “Teahong after the market: from the commodity to cosmopolitanism” by Luke, Allen (2003).

    The paper suggests that curricula have been dumbe down and commodified to fit a neoliberal form of governance. This notion fits your idea of using history to evolve curricula but the results, in their view, have been quite negative.

    I’m interested to hear what you think.

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