Beyond knowledge: a case for the ontology of science in science education

Year: 2021

Author: Rizzo, Luigi, Toscano, Maurizio

Type of paper: Individual Paper

ABSTRACTScience education addresses questions concerning the kind of scientific knowledge and understanding students should have, along with the means by which students may engage with such knowledge and apply it in the context of their own lives. Much less frequently addressed are questions about what makes scientific knowledge distinctive, in addition to how such knowledge arose. These latter questions deal with the ontology of science. That is, the entities that we take as real and hence what manifest as knowledge in the domain of science. Educational studies that attend to the history and philosophy of science and the nature and sociology of science come nearest to examining such ontological concerns. Yet, a systematic, comprehensive and coherent articulation of the ontology of science remains elusive in the context of science education.This paper offers a way forward in this regard. It proposes the use of taxonomies of the ontology of science as a way of foregrounding the continuities and discontinuities of scientific theory and practice. Moreover, it makes evident – to the educator and education researcher – the trajectories of science, from antiquity to the modern period. Akin to Hertz’s identification of ‘images’ of science, it reveals the ontological genealogy of science from Archimedes, through Galileo, and on to Newton in a way that highlights the much-neglected connection between iconic theory making, modelling and experimentation. Finally, it suggests an educational approach – via the use of iconic ‘apparatus’ – towards engaging students with both contemporary and historical accounts of science.