Science education and the work of art

Year: 2012

Author: Toscano, Maurizio

Type of paper: Refereed paper


Martin Heidegger's seminal essay, The Origin of the Work of Art, captures much of what is both original and enduring in his philosophical offering. Although his essay takes as its beginning the question of the relationship between art, the work of art and the artist; Heidegger's essay covers conceptual ground that is particularly pertinent to science education. More precisely: given the ubiquity and importance of material artefacts and equipment in the science classroom, Heidegger's meticulous phenomenological inquiry into the nature of 'things', 'equipment' and 'the work' offers the potential for a re-conceptualisation of science education that loosens the grip of traditional, positivist accounts.

This paper adopts the phenomenological approach and conclusions put forward in Heidegger's essay to examine philosophically the nature and status of things and equipment in the science classroom. While it draws upon Heidegger's inquiry into the work of art, it goes beyond his analysis by examining the relationship between science, science education and art, and the special role that science teaching plays in instantiating these connections. In doing so, the paper puts forward the claim that the 'work' of the science teacher may be conceived of as 'work of art' in the Heideggerian sense; and thereby provide the basis for a postmodern interpretation of science learning and teaching.

Heidegger, M. (1971/1935-36) The Origin of the Work of Art, in: Poetry, Language, Thought, A. Hofstadter, trans. (New York, Harper & Row), pp. 17-87.