History of Science and Science Teaching


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.


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 The historical content of science, which we are proud of, is often missed in the school teaching of general history, where they are often pushed away by other issues, sometimes also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.




Altrichter, H. & Posch, P. (1998). Lehrer erforschen ihren Unterricht. Eine Einführung in die Methode der Aktionsforschung. 3d ed. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt.


Baker, D. & Leary, R. (1995). Letting girls speak about science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32 (1), 3-27.

Eilks, I., Parchmann, I., Gräsel, C., & Ralle, B. (2004). Changing teachers' attitudes and professional skills by involving teachers into projects of curriculum innovation in Germany. In: B. Ralle & I. Eilks (ed.): Quality in practice oriented research in science education, Aachen, Shaker, 29-40.


Häußler, P., Hoffmann, L., Langeheine, R., Rost, J., & Sievers, K. (1996). Qualitative Unterschiede im Interesse an Physik und Konsequenzen für den Physikunterricht. Zeitschrift für Didaktik der Naturwissenschaften, 2(3), 57-69.


Heering, P. (2000). 'Getting shocks: Teaching Secondary School Physics through History'. Science & Education 9(4), 363-373.


Hodge, R. (2006). What Europeans Really Think (and Know) about Science and Technology. Science in School, issue 3, Winter 2006: 71-77,


http://www.scienceinschool.org/2006/issue3/eurobarometer/ (17.04.2007).


Höttecke, D. (2007). Historisch orientierter Physikunterricht (Teaching physics with history). In S. Mikelskis-Seifert & T. Rabe (Hrsg.), Physikmethodik. Handbuch für die Sekundarstufe I und II. Berlin: Cornelsen Verlag Scriptor.


Monk, M. & Osborne, J. (1997) . Placing the history and philosophy of science on the curriculum: a model of development of pedagogy. Science Education, 81 (4), 405-425.

Prenzel, M., Baumert, J., Blum, W., Lehmann, R., Leutner, R., Neubrand, M., Pekrun, R., Rost, J., & Schiefele, U. (Hrsg.) PISA- Konsortium Deutschland (o.J.). PISA 2003 - Untersuchungen zur Kompetenzentwicklung im Verlauf eines Schuljahres. Zusammenfassung. http://pisa.ipn.uni-kiel.de/PISA_2003_Kompetenzentwicklung_Zusfsg.pdf (22.02.2007).


Zohar, A. & Sela D. (2003). 'Her physics, his physics: gender issues in Israeli advanced placement physics classes', International Journal of Science Education 25(2), 245-268.