Science Teaching: A Dilemmatic Approach

Traianou, Anna. 2012. Science Teaching: A Dilemmatic Approach. Ethnography and Education, 7(2), pp. 213-226. ISSN 1745-7823 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this paper I examine the nature of primary science expertise using an ethnographic and sociocultural approach and a theoretical analysis that conceptualizes educational practice in terms of the resolution of dilemmas. Using data from an in-depth investigation of the perspective and practice of a single teacher, I discuss some of the dilemmas faced by this expert science practitioner as she tries to find the most successful ways for facilitating children's learning. The dilemmas I discuss here describe tensions around how scientific knowledge should be presented to children, how children learn science, and modes of pedagogy. I show that while some of these dilemmas arise from a conflict between the teacher’s own ideals and the external requirements placed upon her, others reflect important tensions within her own values and commitments. I argue that a language of dilemmas allows us to understand pedagogic practice as dynamic in character, as frequently involving difficult choices, in which ideals are traded off against one another. This dilemmatic perspective contrasts sharply both with those views of primary science teaching that treat it as the authoritative transmission of basic skills or facts and those that treat it as the acting out of a coherent ideology.

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Identification Number (DOI):


teacher dilemmas, research knowledge, teacher knowledge, qualitative research methodology, science education, traianou

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies
Research Office > REF2014


18 July 2012Published

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Date Deposited:

19 Nov 2012 16:39

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 09:58

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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