Towards research-based early science and technology curriculum:Drawing insights from one child's investigations in his community

Year: 1999

Author: Hall, Robin, Schaverien, Lynette, Cosgrove, Mark

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Primary science teachers are not easily able to adopt research-based teaching approaches in early science and technology education. Researchers' attempts to address this problem have typically focused on eliciting children's existing ideas and helping teachers to take account of them. Researchers have largely ignored how such ideas developed. Improved understanding of the evolution of children's ideas appears to us to offer a way to enhance early science and technology education.

In this study, we sought insights into that development in two ways. First, we followed precedents in the history of science and early human development by studying a single case - one young child - over a sustained time. Secondly, we considered whether this child was capable of initiating and pursuing his own curriculum, out of school, in his community but without explicit teaching. In so doing, we explored whether a child could know what and how to teach himself and whether he had learned, issues Plato made explicit in the Meno's paradox.

Using established anthropological methods, Robin participated in this child's community over a two-year period, describing what occurred as this child exploited all the means available to him to satisfy his own technological curiosity. Our findings suggest this child is well able to resolve the Meno's paradox for himself, without a teacher, within his community over time. We speculate on the implications of such a finding, noting the harmony between this reconception of education and current attempts to develop computer-mediated environments in which learners can teach themselves.