Theoretical Framework


The project HIPST (History and Philosophy in Science Teaching) presents an effort by some science education scholars to promote science education by the development of materials for teaching and learning science which are informed by the history and philosophy of science.


We suggest the use of the HPS (History and Philosophy of Science) in science education as an approach to foster public understanding of science for a wide audience. We assume this objective as central for the development of a modern civil society.


General Aspects


It is important to emphasize that our current project is within science education as an academic discipline (which is still under the process of consolidation) and is thus different from the well-established disciplines of science, history and philosophy. However, science education is based on the knowledge of all these, as well of other disciplines.









Philosophy of

History of










Studies of


experts and


Science and















Figure 1: The disciplines contributing to science education



Therefore, we deal with an interdisciplinary domain which combines various perspectives, integrating sciences with humanities. Our vision of the subject of our concern, science education, includes, but naturally does not completely coincide with, any of those areas and might even create certain tension with them, which is normal in such cases.


We suggest the use of the HPS in science education as an approach to foster public understanding of science for a wide audience. We assume this objective as central for the development of a modern civil society.



Understanding of History and Philosophy of Science Regarding Science Teaching for the HIPST Project



The history of science depicts the process, which was influenced by numerous factors of cultural, philosophical, technological, and social nature. The history of science clarifies their meaning for the contemporary generation and presents the scientific tradition in its many

colors. The history of science reveals that, in science, we are within a long tradition (nobody starts from scratch) and that scientific knowledge is essentially a collective knowledge. It is so rich and powerful because "we are standing on the shoulders of giants", great minds, smart and numerous.


Reflections on the nature of science take place in a historical context with concrete relations to events in the past. The nature of science issues is not isolated or restricted to a philosophical discussion, but is connected to concrete scientific problems.


There is a need for scholars to deliberately create case studies (case histories) to be used by teachers and students (e.g. Conant et al. 1957, Matthews 2000). These could include relevant pieces of originals; conceptually translated for the modern inexperienced reader. At the same time, creation of a comprehensive course of physics, based on the history of science (e.g. Holton et al. 1985, Rutherford et al. 1970) appears as an infeasible goal, and hence, case studies appear to present the most appropriate format for our project.



Framework for Teaching and Learning with HPS


We intend to adopt a program which considers science as embedded in culture, in a broad general sense, which includes the realms of technology, history, art, religion, economics, and other human activities (e.g. Bevilacqua et al. 2001, Allchin 2006, Galili et al. 2007). Besides providing the circumstances under which scientists once developed valuable pieces of knowledge (Cunningham 1988), this approach contributes to the understanding of science in a wider interdisciplinary context. This approach neither attracts students nor inspires them to become scientists necessarily, but science will be portrayed as a social activity, an intellectual enterprise, a process and a product, in order to foster scientific literacy.


Traditional approaches to teaching science often suffer from being perceived as abstract and complex. The reason is that they focus on the training of solving standard problems. Instead, historical case studies connect scientific knowledge to its social and cultural origins. The history of science softens the dry content and introduces the learner to the complexity of the knowledge to be learned. Learning about the nature of science in its cultural perspective increases scientific literacy.


We believe that the use of history of science incorporating cultural aspects will provide students with a more variable and deeper understanding of scientific content causing meaningful learning, always an objective for science education in general. Indeed, meaningfulness regarding knowledge is defined as a multiplicity of connections in a web of knowledge elements (Ausubel 1968). This web of knowledge will be provided by historical case studies.


We emphasize that history of science presents an indispensable resource of events and cases which can display and convey to the next generation standards of devotion, norms of behavior and of attitude to society.


Our additional goal is to show in our teaching that science is not only deeply imbedded in culture, but it presents a culture in itself. This view can be represented using the triadic model of discipline-culture (Fig. 2) that represents a fundamental scientific theory (Tseitlin et al.


2005). This model comprises three areas of knowledge elements in fundamental theory (Fig. 3): nucleus (governing paradigms, concepts and principles), body (elements obtained by application of the particular nucleus) and periphery (alternative knowledge, concepts and conceptions, which contradict to the principles included in the particular nucleus). Usually teaching science is restricted to presenting only the nucleus and body. This model, however,

states a periphery to be an essential component of our understanding of the discipline, making it discipline-culture.







Nucleus     Body        Periphery











Figure 2: Discipline-culture model of a fundamental scientific theory





For example, if we consider the Newtonian theory of mechanics representing a nucleus, the medieval theory of impetus is located in the periphery. History of science provides elements of periphery, which by contrast (variation) create the meaning of the paradigm of the nucleus.


Philosophy of science contributes to science teaching essentially (Fig. 1). Philosophy of science provides an overall meaning of scientific knowledge and determines the image of science presented in the classroom. While teaching and learning may avoid historical perspective, philosophy of science cannot be ignored and is present in any teaching of science, whether or not it is explicitly recognized by science educators (Matthews 1994). Even if teachers follow traditional teaching of science they do keep with and thus convey certain ontological and epistemological conventions.


Philosophy supplies a meta-language to talk about science. Terms like theory, experiment, data, evidence, hypotheses, test, model or analogy enable talk about science beyond specific contents. We think that these terms should be explicitly discussed while science is taught and learned. The role of philosophy of science often suffers from being neglected and misinterpreted by the designers of science curricula, as well as by practicing teachers.






Science Teaching











Philosophy of
















Figure 3: Semiotic triangle regarding science, science teaching and the philosophy of science




Seeking simplification, science educators often use a diffusive term: the Nature of Science, and include in that term the meta-scientific issues from the realm of philosophy of science. We will distinguish the following aspects especially important for science teaching.


Scientists live in a special type of an "open society". This idea deserves to be presented in general education. Scientific community is authoritative, but the authority in it is based on rationality, objective and impersonal evaluation which are cultural, man-made values in

themselves. Science has its “heroes”: Aristotle, Alhazen, Leonardo, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Bohr and many others. It is illuminating to discuss why they became famous and respected despite the fact that scientists of today have no problem in showing that any of them was right in some claims and wrong in the others (e.g. de Santillana 1955, Koestler 1959, Allchin 2006).


Moreover, the important aspect of scientific knowledge to be demonstrated in science classes is that national affiliation is not necessarily an essential part of it. In its essence, science was and is international. Although introduced within the European culture, science is currently rapidly spreading all over the world. Despite the complex nature of introductory education, which often possesses certain features of local culture, the strong supra-ethnic nature of science enters science teaching too: Aristotle is venerated all over the world; Galileo can be equally respected by Italian students as by students in any other country; Newton's laws are equally respected, regardless school location; Einstein is not affiliated to any country but is regarded as a “hero” of modern science in all parts of the world. Furthermore, the history of science shows in many cases that when scientists were open to international interaction, communicated with each other across the national boarders, they were especially successful.


After the overview of the basics, we specify here some beneficial aspects of teaching by means of HPS based materials that may provide more detail of the general view. Currently, the inquiry-based teaching presents one of the central trends in science education (e.g. Bybee 2000, Minstrel & van Zee 2000, McBride 2004). As such it is stated in the policy determining documents such as: National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS 1993).


1.  Contextualized Learning. Curricular developers all over Europe have stressed the role of context for science learning. HPS based materials provide the learner with context and reveal that science is inextricably merged with society, economy, ecology and culture.


Contextual learning contributes to the deeper understanding of science as well as understanding of the interaction between science and society.

2.  Problem solving skills. Very often, instruction in science classes appears as training in solving standard problems. At the same time, the international comparative studies (PISA and TIMSS) showed students' low success in many European countries both in scientific literacy and problem solving. Views about the nature of science positively correlate with students' success in the assessment of subject matter (e.g. Halloun et al. 1998). The link between these two aspects of knowledge could be provided by HPS based learning materials. Students obtain a more realistic view of solving problems in science. It is reasonable to expect positive impact of our activity on students’ analytical skills in problem solving as they reflect the efforts of scientists solving authentic problems.


3.  Conceptual knowledge. Scientific concepts and conceptions can be more intelligible in the context of their introduction than in the formalism of modern discipline. This approach matches the idea of genetic epistemology suggested by Piaget (1970), further reinforced by his support of conceptual psychogenetic recapitulation.

4.  Nature of science. In a Delphi interdisciplinary study, experts of science education, science, history, philosophy, and sociology of science have concluded that learning about the nature of science is among the central objectives of science education (Osborne et al. 2003). Experts agree that doing science requires utilization of the certain scientific method in providing meaning to the accumulated empirical evidence, while taking into account social and cultural aspects of scientific knowledge (Bybee 1997, Akerson et al. 2000, Bianchini et al. 2000, Khishfe et al. 2002, Schwartz et al. 2004). These aspects often touch

on what is considered to be scientific literacy. HIPST places it as its goal to promote these skills by developing appropriate HPS materials.


5. Modern citizenship. Learning science implies learning to think rationally: critically, analytically, consistently and holistically. This competence equips the learners is required to become active citizens in a democratic decision-making society. Our reality is already socio-scientific. Modern society continuously increases its dependence on scientific knowledge and thus requires knowledge about science both for policy makers and a wider public. Energy crisis, nuclear energy use, global warming, ozone whole, genetic engineering, modern medicine are only a few examples which demand scientific literacy, a mature humanistic and rationalistic worldview. Therefore, students at schools have to learn science at least in a wide qualitative perspective. Case studies from the history of science exemplify scientific literacy on several levels of sophistication. They exemplify the way the great minds thought about science as a whole. This latter evidence is crucial for developing in future citizens the knowledge and ability to evaluate the results of science, to understand the limits of their validity and constraint of implications, as well as to appreciate the needs of science.


The presentations of science that are detached from reality cause students' confusion. Too often students are swamped with clever answers before they could appreciate the questions. Such an approach deprives science of human nature. This causes students' perverted image of science and its goals, repelling many from learning science. A change is needed promoting peoples’ ability to develop and keep their interests in science for a lifelong willingness for learning. Historical case studies can improve the situation by creating in students a realistic image of science as a process in which regular people are involved with their feelings, problems, hesitations, errors, hopes, devotion and decisions. Historical case studies can display the authentic science as a human endeavour and scientists as occupied with attractive and challenging activity, tackling the problems important for the society. Regardless their race or social strata, researchers work in wide international, mixed gender communities, maintaining the continuous human discourse across generations and civilizations.


What has been said for students at school is also true for an even broader audience, namely the visitors of science museums. Museums with modern conceptions do not restrict themselves to merely displaying their most valuable objects (“gazing is not enough”), but they try to evoke fantasy, initiative and autonomy in their spectators. Learning processes about science comprise the act of retracing the scientific train of thought and the practical comprehension of scientific advancement. An appropriate means of communicating these two aspects is the inquiry method including Science Theatre and experimental demonstrations.


The HPS based learning essentially contradicts the obsolete dichotomy of the "two cultures" (Snow 1963), sciences versus humanities. In fact, historical case studies integrate science with humanities, doing it in a rich context, attractive to the wide population of students seeking complementary relationship between these two aspects of human intellectual activity. Thus, our approach to science education can attract students of various cognitive preferences.


HIPST focuses on the development of teaching and learning materials which foster all of these aspects.


Bridging the Gaps


Teachers. International survey studies, such as PISA and TIMSS, have shown that science teaching is overwhelmingly teacher oriented. The acceptance or denial of new teaching approaches heavily depends on teachers' views and support. Teachers would adopt the change

in teaching if their own ideas of how to teach, their beliefs, resonance with the innovation (Waters-Adam 2006). Researchers point out that teachers tend to think that the knowledge about nature of science is acquired spontaneously by students, in the course of learning science, without being addressed explicitly. For this reason, even when the teachers themselves possess strong conceptions regarding the nature of science, they often refrain from their pedagogical implementation (Abd-El-Khalick et al. 1998, Akerson et al. 2003, Brickhouse 1990, Hodson 1993, Lederman 1992, Lederman & Zeidler 1987).


Teaching materials. A survey of school textbooks shows a lack of adequate representation of the HPS content. In rare cases history is addressed at all, predominantly a “whiggish” image of science and its development is provided (Pagliarini & Silva 2007). Hence, teachers who would like to incorporate HPS lack appropriate materials: textbook, collections of worksheets, questions and problems to engage students. Facilitation of teachers and students with the materials properly representing and guiding the proposed teaching and learning stimulates the success of inclusion of HPS to science teaching.


Networking educational expertise. Learning of science with the aid of its history and philosophy at schools could become beneficial through coordination of different educational resources. It would be not wise for schools to neglect other educational institutions, such as science museums, who also strive for similar goals: development of scientific literacy in the society. Education obtained from visiting science museums and listening to museum instructors could complement classroom teaching, sharing methodology and experience. Furthermore, the experts in teacher-training have much to contribute from their knowledge about variety of teaching materials, techniques and their implementation.


Given all these constraints addressed we will be able to fulfil the standard of the National Academy of Sciences that stated (NRC 1996):


“In learning science, students need to understand that science reflects its history, and is an ongoing, changing enterprise. The standards for the history and nature of science recommend the use of history of science in school science programs to clarify different aspects of scientific inquiry, the human aspects of science, and the role science has played in the development of various cultures.”



Aspects Regarding Policy of Education


The project suggests a way to solve an acute problem of the current educational system, which became obvious in large scale assessments like PISA and TIMSS and others concerning effective learning and a decline of interest in science. Traditional forms of teaching lack efficiency. It has been shown for example that less than a half of students profit from traditional science teaching courses (e.g. longitudinal study in classes 9 and 10, Prenzel et al. 2007). Furthermore, science education in Europe suffers from a decline of interest of many students in science. This has recently been reported by the Eurobarometer survey (Hodge 2006) as well as by previous studies (Häußler et al. 1996).


The broad expansion of science education in modern society converted science education into a sort of industry, producing an educated generation which can support the functioning of our society and its progress. Large scale assessments, such as PISA and TIMSS, demonstrate social interest in this process. These massive assessments were focused on the averaged success of populations, appropriate to maintain functioning of our highly technological dependent society.



HPS and Educational Goals

By their nature, the HPS materials are not restricted to school curricula. Learning of and about science includes many aspects beyond professional training. We aim to encourage this process of "Bildung", which means transformation of the learners as they develop their worldview and general attitudes to science, culture and society. Exposure to the HPS causes students to acquaint themselves with the content that presents the treasure of their own culture and society. The historical content of science, which we are proud of, is often missed in the school teaching of general history, where they are often pushed away by other issues, sometimes also of lower humanistic value. Schooling in philosophy is often lacking in modern schools. In such a situation the inclusion of the HPS materials serves an important role in general education, providing cultural literacy and preparing responsible citizens able to critically reflect the reality in the society they belong to.


For example, the HPS materials may include the dialogue between Galileo and the church regarding the monopoly to determine people's worldview, its dependence on rational reasoning and their right to participate in taking decision regarding the way they live. Another example is scientists' behavior and moral dilemmas in the development of nuclear power, which threatens us by extermination, on the one hand, and on the other, by energy supply, which challenges the very existence of the modern society. Einstein, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Heisenberg, Sacharov, Fuchs and other scientists are attractive “heroes” of narratives appropriate for science classes. In preparing such materials, their content and structure, one should take perspectives drawing on students’ views, attitudes, interests and capacities (Höttecke 2007).


In this regard one may also include the issue of gender related attitudes towards science (Zohar et al. 2003). Research (Heering 2000, Baker et al. 1995) indicates that female students show specific attitudes to science. They are interested in science as a discourse and prefer learning in an interactive classroom context. They may benefit from a change of science instruction towards more open inquiry activities, and presenting scientific knowledge as progressive, changeable and human.


The world of practicing teachers and the world of educational researchers and curriculum developers are quite separated from each other (Monk et al. 1997). This observation may impede effective implementation of the HPS based materials. This problem should be taken into account by us while developing historical cases. We need to see not only the appropriateness of the content, but also the feasibility of their class presentation and the ways they could be adopted in the real teaching. This care requires methodologies like "action research" (e.g. Altrichter et al. 1998) or "participative action research" (Eilks et al. 2004). We should establish a productive and reliable framework for cooperation of all agents involved in our project, enabling the expertises of science teachers as well as of researchers to influence the development of the units. We assume that an effective implementation of the HPS based materials will benefit all educational fields.




Aspects Regarding Academic Research


The main effort of our project is based on knowledge which has been accumulated in the recent past in the research discourse in science education (e.g. Matthews 1994). The project reflects the specific needs of science education and a specific vision of these scholars in this area.


As a scientific discipline, science education has developed several basic approaches which account for the process of learning-teaching of science as well as suggest a possible basis for a curriculum design: "educational constructivism"; "educational reconstruction"; “didactic transposition”, "inquiry learning"; "teaching by modeling"; "discipline-culture". Each of these

approaches has its advantages and shortcomings. None of them alone addresses and accounts for all facets of science education as required by our society. In the following we briefly summarize the points of our vision supported by research evidence.


Our goals presented here are rather broad. In fact, what science one has to learn strongly depends on the educational goals adopted. Indeed, our students who want to become physicists, engineers, science teachers or any other professional in science, technology and humanities hold different educational objectives. However, despite of the huge variety of goals, there is still a common core of universal knowledge, which we term the "cultural basis" of scientific knowledge. This basic knowledge should be addressed in introductory science education.


Several studies stated that students' epistemological beliefs about knowledge, its development in science and acquisition by the learner affect attitudes to science and the processes of learning (Baumert et al. 2000, Edmondson et al. 1993, Halloun et al. 1998, Hogan 2000, Lising et al. 2005, Songer et al. 1991, Tsai 1999, Urhahne et al. 2004). Research reports and teaching practice have shown the effectiveness of history-oriented teaching for learning about the nature of science (Solomon et al. 1992, Barth 1999, Irwin 2000, Heering 2000, Galili et al. 2001, Lin et al. 2002, Solbes et al. 2003, Howe et al 2005, Mamlok-Naaman et al 2005, Seker et al. 2005, Dedes et al. 2008).


Aspects Regarding In-Service Teachers


We emphasize that history of science presents an indispensable resource of events and cases which can display and convey to the next generation standards of devotion, norms of behavior and of attitude to society, beauty and elegance of theories, models, experiments, solutions of problems, laboratory tools and many other aspects of science and its products. No declarations can compete with the real stories in this regard. These stories make concrete the high principles and values shared by scientists of the past. This education creates the noble image of science, its ethos, norms and values. By establishing these norms, historical cases familiarize contemporary youth with representative examples and invite them to adopt these values and devote themselves to the hard but enjoyable work of knowledge construction, revealing the mysteries of Nature. This vision of science education touches on the concept of "Bildung" (Benner 1990).


For example, the historical context of teaching electricity may include electrification, industrialisation and the spread of technological applications and the changes of life style. The topic of atomic energy is understood differently and more in depth if the learners are immersed into the context of atomic projects (achievements and failures), the competition of superpowers in atomic weapons, etc. Similarly, the knowledge gain in mechanics could be significantly reached in exposing the social context of rockets and space programs, like Moon and Mars missions. Scientific innovations may lead to ecological problems. Related ethical problems could be evaluated and judged by children learning science. An even broader range of topics come into play when focussing the societal fields of sustainability and risk analysis of technological change which have won an eminent importance in the last decades, as ancient and modern biotechnology, medical diagnostics and therapy, or health hazards in industrial working processes.

We might add that historical problems could be simpler than contemporary scientific problems and be closer to the problems usually discussed in science classes. These were in the centre of scientific discourse in the past and are apt for introductory education.

The HPS based contents are important for teachers for they re-enact historical debates and experiments, reveal how science works, familiarizing teachers with the experience they often lack. HPS materials shed light on the "kitchen of science", showing that scientific knowledge is tentative, not fixed and necessarily draws on both the previous theories and the empirical evidence. This knowledge enhances teachers' ability to guide classroom discussions and inquiry, enable them to better comprehend students' contributions. By using HPS materials science teachers will acquire pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman 1986, Loughran et al. 2006), which they need for inquiry teaching and for teaching about science (Abd-El-Khalick & Lederman 2000).





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HIPST theory for academic researchers


HIPST theory for politicians


HIPST theory for teachers