Rosalind Driver

The Pupil as Scientist?

Open University Press
ISBN 0-355-10178-X

Grade focus: 3-5, 6-8

The Pupil as Scientist? intends to give educators a better understanding of the thinking of young adolescent students in science classes and to indicate the difficulties they have in understanding the scientific ideas with which they are presented. It is practical in its orientation; the issues discussed are illustrated with examples of students' dialogue and written work.

Although the book can inform educators about students' ideas in specific content areas, its main value probably lies in its discussion of major developments in cognitive theory with a serious attempt to relate the results of this work to the classroom.

The book makes the case that students come to science lessons with already formulated ideas -- which Rosalind Driver calls alternative frameworks -- and that these may be inconsistent with the ideas that the science teacher wants to develop. Examples of common alternative frameworks in areas such as forces and motion, heat, light, and the particulate nature of matter are presented, along with discussions of how these alternative frameworks affect students' observations and the sense students make of these observations.

The book provides valuable insights into classroom practice where "discovery" and "hands-on" approaches predominate. It makes the case that simply providing students with practical experiences will not be sufficient if we wish them to develop an understanding of scientific concepts and principles: "The theoretical models and scientific conventions will not be 'discovered' by children through their practical work. They need to be presented. Guidance is then needed to help children assimilate their practical experiences into what is possibly a new way of thinking for them."