Learning by Doing: Experiments and Instruments in the History of Science Teaching

Symposium in Regensburg, Germany, 4-5 April 2009

The international symposium 'Learning by doing: Experiments and Instruments in the History of Science Teaching' will take place on 4-5 April 2009 at the University of Regensburg (Ratisbon) in Germany. The symposium will be preceding the Annual Congress of the Deutscher Verein zur Förderung des mathematischen und naturwissenschaftlichen Uniterrichts (German Society for the Promotion of Mathematics and Science Teaching, MNU) which will take place on 5-9 April 2009. Please visit the homepage of the MNU Bundeskongress. This particular Bundeskongress celebrates the 100th anniversary congress of the MNU, which provides us the occasion to address the history of science teaching. Our symposium, which is not part of the MNU Bundeskongress, addresses both historians of science and science educators.

Our symposium will focus on experiments and instruments in the history of science teaching. This is one of the topics that has not enjoyed much attention within the larger scholarship on history of science. With the 'pragmatic turn' in the 1990s, experiments, scientific instruments and scientific practice came into focus in history of science. Science teaching, by contrast, is still looked at rather as context or boundary condition of scientific research in educational institutions. Parallel to the neglect of experiment (Alan Franklin, 1986), one could speak here of a neglect of science teaching in history of science. This appears to be even more remarkable, since work in epistemology of science refers to the formative effect of training and thereby also to its relevance for research processes.

Instead of reducing the history of science teaching to the context of research history, we would like to treat it in its own right and examine the complex interrelations between research and teaching. We also wish, at the outset, to avoid a separation between science teaching at schools on one hand and institutions of higher education on the other. We rather wish to debate what connected teaching at different institutions and where the differences lay. The history of experiments and instruments in scientific teaching and research practice, we feel, offers ample opportunity for this debate. We would like to suggest the following questions:

  • How did demonstration experiments and experimental lectures emerge, and how have they further developed?
  • When, why and how were student experiments and organised laboratory courses introduced in science teaching in different disciplines and different institutions? How have these changed?
  • How have the relationships between scientific instruments in research and teaching developed? To what extent have the same instruments been used in both activities, to what extend have separate teaching- or research instruments been developed?
  • How were research experiments transformed into teaching experiments? Open-endedness and a process-like character are essential characteristics of experiments in the generation of new knowledge. What becomes of these characteristics through the transformation into teaching? Teaching experiments require (and claim) stability. How did their stabilisation take place? Can the relationship between research and teaching experiments be reduced to production and reproduction of knowledge?

The symposium is organised by Peter Heering of the Physics Education/History and Philosophy of Science Group of the University of Oldenburg and Roland Wittje of the History of Science Unit of the University of Regensburg.

More information : http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_I/Philosophie/Wissensc...