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.


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).




Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Lederman, N. G. (2000). 'The Influence of History of Science Courses on Studentsí Views of Nature of Science'. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37 (10), 1057-1095.

Benner, D. (1990). Wissenschaft und Bildung. Überlegungen zu einem problematischen Verhältnis und zur Aufgabe einer bildenden Interpretation neuzeitliche Naturwissenschaft. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 36 (4),597-620.


Loughran, J., Berry, A., & Mulhall, P. (2006) . Understanding and Developing Teachers' Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam.


Shulman, L. S. (1986). 'Those who understand: knowledge growth in teaching.' Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.