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ERIC Number: EJ918135
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-May
Pages: 7
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 62
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
Straw Men and False Dichotomies: Overcoming Philosophical Confusion in Chemical Education
Taber, Keith S.
Journal of Chemical Education, v87 n5 p552-558 May 2010
Constructivism has been widely considered the most influential perspective in science education research for some decades, and has been the basis of widespread pedagogic advice in many educational contexts. Yet it has been claimed in this "Journal" that the philosophical basis of constructivist thought in chemical education is confused, and strongly associated with antiscientific thinking that is completely inconsistent with the working assumptions of professional chemists. It has been argued that constructivist pedagogy is inherently tied to the dangerous assumption that as all ideas are human constructions, there is no basis for preferring accepted scientific models to students' own alternative ideas. The present paper demonstrates that the constructivist position criticized in this "Journal" is a complete misrepresentation of mainstream constructivist thinking in science education. Furthermore, it is argued that the claim of philosophical confusion rests upon a false dichotomy between realism and relativism, whereas the actual philosophical position underpinning mainstream constructivism in chemical education is instrumentalism, which is not only consistent with the approach of many scientists, but offers a promising basis for challenging many difficulties students have in learning the subject.
Division of Chemical Education, Inc and ACS Publications Division of the American Chemical Society. 1155 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 800-227-5558; Tel: 202-872-4600; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A