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Improving Quality of Science Teacher Training in European Cooperation

  Assessing Science for Understanding (CZ) Training Module Based on Socio-cognitive Constructivism (CY) European Dimension in Integrated Science Education (LT) Development Procedural Skills in Science Education (BG) Using Laboratory to Enhance Student Learning and Scientific Inquiry (TR)  
Unit 1 - A Conception of Integrated Science Education Unit 2 - Some Philosophic, Didactic and Social Aspects of Integrated Science Education Unit 3 - The Main Tendencies of Integrated Science Education Development Unit 4 & Unit 5 - Integrated Science Education in the Context of the Constructivism Theory
Unit 6 - The Models of Integrated Science Education Unit 7 - The Integrated Science Education Curricula and its Designing Principles in Comprehensive School Unit 8 - The Science Education Tools and Ways of Producing them in the Collaboration Process Unit 9 & Unit 10 - A Constructivist Approach to Integrated Science Education: Teaching Would-be Teachers to do Science
Unit 11 & Unit 12 - Contextual Teaching and Learning of Integrated Science in Lower and Upper Secondary Schools Unit 13 - The Evaluation Strategies of Integrated Science Teaching / Learning Unit 14 - The Collaboration Peculiarities of Science Teachers  

Unit 4 & Unit 5
Integrated Science Education in the Context of the Constructivism Theory

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Integrated Science Education in the Context of the Constructivism Theory

Integrated Science Teaching in Terms of the Constructivist Approach


Constructivism may be considered an epistemology (a philosophical framework or theory of learning) (Jean Piaget, 1967), which argues humans construct meaning from current knowledge structures. Knowledge should not be divided into different subjects or compartments, but should be discovered as an integrated whole (McMahon 1997; Di Vesta 1987).

The fact is that constructivism carries a major influence in contemporary science education, although it has been the subject of a heated debate. Remarkably, one of the most important implications of radical constructivism challenges the processes by which individual students actively construct their own knowledge.

Constructivism has always skirted round the actual learning of an established body of knowledge ... students will find that words are used in new and standardised ways: problems which were never even seen as being problems, are solved in a sense which needs to be learned and rehearsed.  For a time all pupils may feel that they are on foreign land and no amount of recollection of their own remembered territory with shut eyes will help them to acclimatise. (Solomon, 1994, p. 16). Learning science involves being initiated into the culture of science.  If learners are to be given access to the knowledge systems of science, the process of knowledge construction must go beyond personal empirical enquiry.  Learners need to be given access not only to physical experiences but also to the concepts and models of conventional science (Driver et al., 1994, p. 6). Most science teachers try their best to explain things clearly, to make use of metaphors, to use demonstrations and practical work to flesh out abstractions, to utilise projects and discussions for involving students in the subject matter, and so on.  They realise that many, if not most, things in science are beyond the experience of students and the capabilities of school laboratories to demonstrate.  The cellular, molecular and atomic realms are out of reach of school laboratories, as is most of the astronomical realm.  Most of the time even things that are within reach do not work. It is a rare school experiment that is successful.  For children, a great deal of science has to be taken on faith.  Good teachers do their best in the situation, and try to point out why faith in science is warranted. In that case the approach of integrated teaching/learning is the best choice.

The processes of integration are visible in science, technologies and economy including education. The discussions about integrated education focused on the integration of teaching content are frequently held. The future will show whether it is fashion or necessity. One point is clear – the integration of teaching content is a burning issue of contemporary didactics. The following main objectives make the dignity of integrated teaching evident:

Thus, integration is the development of a new wholeness from the previous different units, components, for example, the content of teaching subjects, the kinds of activities, etc. The characteristic features of the child or teenager should not be forgotten along with the theoretic examination and practic solution of the questions of integrated natural sciences teaching. F i r s t, the processes of the child’s memory in terms of quality and quantity change (for example, visual-sensorial, emotional memorable, etc.); s e c o n d, the qualities of pupils’ cognitive activities (thinking, observation) are remarkably diverse (a particular group of pupils should manage to perceive integrated material); t h i r d, a successful solution of the issues of psychologic adaptation is considered to be an important point (new textbooks, new curricula, requirements, etc.); f o u r t h, contemplation on the basis of concepts prevails at school age, i.e. the world is accepted as the generalization of the main features of objects and phenomena. Incidentally, such thinking form only in childhood (Vygotskij, 1934); f i f t h, the level of abstraction increases together with the degree of integration.

The younger the child the less s/he knows and manages, and therefore in terms of him/her, the degree of the integration of subjects has to be limited

Certainly, teachers themselves should know more about the styles of teaching/learning and different patterns of work organization (Eric W.K.Tsang, 1997). Pedagogues must communicate, argue and seek effective ways in order to hold teaching material in pupils’ memory (Schlesinger, 1996). The author maintains that every integrated curriculum has to include two modules – thematic and functional. The teaching curricula that should reproduce the integration of content as well as of the process become notable. The integrated courses of natural sciences should be coordinated with the systemic ones. The integrated course of teaching has to be undertaken by the complex of training aids/resources for learning such as textbooks, workbooks, didactic material, teacher’s book (teaching methodology), visuals, etc. They guarantee increased activities that are directly proportional to the efficiency of teaching/learning.

Table 3. Some factors on integrated natural science education efficiency (Lamanauskas, 2003).
Aspects of the significance of integrated natural science education Circumstances preventing efficiency of integrated natural science education
  • helps to model the entire (holistic) world-view;
  • forms pupil’s individuality;
  • deepens and develops the kid’s world outlook (understanding of nature);
  • establishes conditions for better mastering, perceiving and structuring natural sciences knowledge;
  • establishes conditions to comprehensively perceive relations between reason and result;
  • establishes conditions to practically apply knowledge;
  • helps to advance practical abilities and skills;
  • establishes conditions for the teacher to more colorful convey information;
  • directly influences the quality of conveying knowledge, evolves the motivation of cognitive interaction with nature etc.
  • the unsuitable, perverted view to natural science education;
  • lack of teachers’ initiative and creativity;
  • teachers’ (particularly those of primary school) weak motivation of cognitive interaction with nature;
  • lack of teachers’ experience in the area of integrated natural science education;
  • sufficiently high expenditure of working hours in order to efficiently formulate strategy of natural science education;
  • lack of the visual aids of natural science education and the discrepancy of those to the required standards;
  • unequipped textbooks; the translated textbooks from foreign languages are particularly inefficient (not adapted to Lithuanian schools);
  • the entire concept of integrated natural science education is missing;
  • the teachers of elder generation are inert;
  • natural science education is a supporting part etc.

The constructivist theory of teaching must be based upon the constructivist theory of learning (Selly, 1999). The constructivist framework challenges teachers to create environments in which they and their students are encouraged to think and explore the scientific knowledge (Brooks & Brooks, 2001; Fosnot, 1996).

The elements of constructivist theory in the classroom may be summarized as follows (Richardson, 2003, Brooks & Brooks, 2001):
The objectives of integrated science are aimed at enabling the student who is exposed to it acquire the following skills:
Tasks (assignments)

  1. Establish the main idea of constructivism as a theory of learning.
  2. How could you motivate the idea of integrated science education based on the theory of constructivism?
  3. Use the presented terminology to form a few proposals defining integrated science education from the point of view of constructivism.

    Concept Statement
    Key concepts  
    Flow of secondary information  
    Sourses of information  
    Teaching / learning process  

  4. Describe the impact of students’ age on the possibilities of integrated science education.
  5. Describe the impact of the available material and human resources on the possibilities of integrated science education.
Case study 1

Teacher A coherently, precisely and clearly presents the theoretical teaching/learning material required for solving different practical issues, defines and corrects terminology related to the educational material and constantly links the discussed topic to the earlier discussed and examined questions. Such situation encourages the students in accepting traditional facts proved by science.

The teacher frequently points to the additional information sources useful to students for individual studies, shows the links between teaching material and the content of other subjects taught (including other than science subjects), sometimes creates situations when the students use the already obtained knowledge to solve the encountered problems in practice. However, it is worth emphasizing that this is not the way of learning every day or week.

Questions to Case Study 1

  1. The presented situation includes the indications of constructivistic teaching/learning. Nevertheless, some moments involves doubts whether the above mentioned teacher refers to constructivism as a basis for epistemological teaching in daily work.
  2. Try to discuss the situation and the following questions in groups: If constructivism as a theory has to be a basis for every lesson? How can the work format of the above mentioned teacher be useful for students?
Case study 2

The teachers of school X have formed a creative and employable team. In the run of a school year, they decided to prepare and implement an integrated curriculum of teaching sciences for basic school (forms from 8 to 10). The teachers scheduled the use of the required tools (course books, work books, teacher books, visual aids etc.) and selected training material. The prepared integrated content of teaching embraces two modules – theoretical and practical. The preserved main principle of constructivistic teaching/learning is oriented towards developing the ability to operate information resources.

Questions to Case Study 2

  1. Do you think the teachers can feel certain about the successful implementation of the integrated curriculum?
  2. Try to predict the impediments to making impact on the implementation of the integrated curriculum of teaching sciences? Can a team of science teachers succeed in preparing the integrated teaching curriculum without outside help?

Constructivism has done a service to science and mathematics education: by alerting teachers to the function of prior learning and extant concepts in the process of learning new material, by stressing the importance of understanding as a goal of science instruction, by fostering pupil engagement in lessons, and other such progressive matters. Constructivism has also done a service by making educators aware of the human dimension of science: its fallibility, its connection to culture and interests, the place of convention in scientific theory, the historicity of concepts, the complex procedures of theory appraisal, and much else.

The integrated course of natural sciences should form the base amount of natural science knowledge (in a broad sense), i.e. “a formal component”, as every teacher tries to identify the priorities of his/her teaching subject and the criteria of the efficiency of peculiar teaching methods and forms. The preparation of the integrated course of natural sciences is a concurrent part of teaching, optional, extracurricular, etc. courses. The educational curricula have to reflect the integration of the content of the teaching/learning process. The integrated and systemic courses of natural sciences should be combined. A real correlation and its reflection in the child’s psycho physiologic abilities, skills, aptitudes and interests during the educational process at different age range is acclaimed to be a very important indicator of the content of natural sciences integration. The integration of the educational process has to be coordinated with didactic differentiation that is determined by unequal pupils’ knowledge, different interests and teaching motivation, unlike intellectual motivation, self-control skills, etc. Self-sufficiency, the principles of freedom of choice and responsibility, psychologic learners’ adaptation should be stressed when preparing the integrated courses of teaching/learning. More attention should be paid to schoolchildren’s personal perfection, the development of differentiated teaching and evaluation, the accumulation, classification, assessment and usage of information and to the development of other skills, the alteration of group and individual work in the educational process. The integrated teaching course has to be guaranteed by the means of teaching/learning such as textbooks, workbooks, didactic material, visual aids, etc. as well as by the teacher’s proficiency to work at qualitatively new level in a new century. A crucial point is a practic check of the set patterns of the content of integral natural science education that could be applied for a particular socio-cultural environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why we are usually talking about priority and importancy of science education?

Because, that the priority of science education is easily understandable as it includes the whole locality inhabited by pupils, their spectrum of self-expression, and also their interaction with nature. Children`s participation is an extremely important component in this case. Teaching scientific material without pupils` active participation in the experiment and research makes the learning process insignificant for them.

Next Reading

Bodner, G. M. (1986). Constructivism: A Theory of Knowledge. Journal of Chemical Education, 63, 10, 873-878.

Collins, H.M. (1985). Changing order: Replication and induction in scientific practice. London: Sage.

Dykstra, D. I., Boyle, C. F., & Monarch, I. A.  (1992). Studying conceptual change in learning physics. Science Education, 76(6), 615-652.

Driver, R. (1995). Constructivist Approaches in Science Teaching. In: L.P. Steffe & J. Gale (Eds), Constructivism in Education (pp. 385-400). Lawrence Erlbaum Assc. Inc.

Lawson, A. (1995). Science teaching and the development of thinking. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Matthews, M.R. (1993). Constructivism and science education: Some epistemological problems. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 2 (1), 359-370.

Millar, R. (1989). Constructive criticisms. International Journal of Science Education, 11, 587-596.

Osborne, J. (1996). Beyond constructivism. Science Education 80(1), 53-82.

Slezak, P. (1994a). Sociology of scientific knowledge and science education: Part I. Science & Education, 3(3), 265-294.

Slezak, P. (1994b). Sociology of scientific knowledge and science education: Part II. Science & Education, 3(4), 329-356.

Rogers, S., Ludington, J. and Graham, S. (1999). Motivation and learning: Practical teaching strategies and tips. Evergreen, CO: Peak Learning Systems.

Tsai, C. C. (2000). Relationships Between Student Scientific Epistemological Beliefs and Perceptions of Constructivist Learning Environments. Educational Research, 42 (2), 193-205.

Unal G., Akpinar E. (2006). To what extent science teachers are constructivist in their classrooms? Journal of Baltic Science Education, No. 2(10), p. 40-50.


Brooks, J.G., & Brooks, M.G. (2001). In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E. & Scott, P. (1994). Constructing Scientific Knowledge in the Classroom. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 5-12.

Fosnot, C. T. (1996). Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives and Practise. Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

Lamanauskas V. (2003). Natural Science Education in Lithuanian Secondary School: Some Relevant Issues. Journal of Baltic Science Education, No.1, p. 44-55.

Matthews, M.R. (2000). Constructivism in Science and Mathematics Education.  In.: D.C. Phillips (ed.), National Society for the Study of Education, 99th Yearbook Chicago, University of Chicago Press, pp. 161-192.

Selley, N. (1999). The Art of Constructivist Teaching in the Primary School. London. David Fulton Publishers Ltd.

Solomon, J. (1994). The Rise and Fall of Constructivism. Studies in Science Education 23, 1-19.

Schlesinger Phyllis F. (1996). Teaching and Evaluation in an Integrated Curriculum. Journal of Management Education, Vol. 20(4), P.479-486.

Richardson, V. (2003) Constructivist Pedagogy, Teachers College Record, 105, 9, 1623-1640.

Tsang Eric W.K. (1997). Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization: A Dichotomy Between Descriptive Research. Human Relations, Vol.50 (1), P. 84-85.

Выготский Л. (1934). Мышление и речь. Москва, С. 119-147.