Constructive Realism and Science Education

Journal of Curriculum Studies 7 (28):81-92 (2013)
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Constructive realism (CR) is an attempt to overcome the difficulties associated with naïve realism and radical constructivism. There are different versions for CR. In this paper, I defend a particular version of CR. Complexity of reality, on the one hand, and the impact of human mind, language, and culture, on the other, leads to the inevitable contribution of constructs in knowledge development. According to the CR, even if mental, linguistic and cultural side of constructs could not be avoided in principle, a certain proportion of reality-contact can be considered and defended for the constructs. In this sense, human mind and culture has a constitutive role to play in knowledge acquiring instead of being an innocent means in the process of acquiring knowledge. On the other hand, the role played by the reality in this process cannot be ignored because, according to the CR, knowledge consists after all of knowing 'something' in the real world. On the whole, taking into account both the constitutive role of mind and culture, on the one hand, and the inevitable role of the reality, on the other, shows the difference between the CR and pure realism, pure constructivism, and those versions of CR that do not take the constitutive role of mind into account. There are requirements for the CR in science education. First of all, there must be a constant caution for making sure that our scientific theories have caught the proportion of reality-contact. This point shows the difference between the CR and pure constructivism. This caution should be present in our science teaching as well. Secondly, we should encourage our students to develop imaginative alternative constructs when they are learning sciences. This shows the difference between the CR with naïve realists who ignore the importance of students' imaginations in suggesting alternative constructs. Notwithstanding, while we encourage the students to develop their imaginative constructs, there should be considered a limitation for their over-justification about their constructs. In this way, we as teachers should urge them to take counter-evidence most seriously into account. This is a point in which constructive realists are distinguished from pragmatists too. Pragmatists do not give up their theories in confrontation with counter-evidence but rather look for almost limitless changes in their constructs in order for making the counterevidence compatible with their theories, whereas constructive realists will be ready to take counterevidence more serious and correct their constructs accordingly.
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