Let them research with : Using history of science to teach upper-secondary chemistry students about the nature of science
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionScience & Education. 2023, 32 1497-1513. 10.1007/s11191-023-00426-7
The French natural philosopher Henri Victor Regnault (1810–1878) was one of many researchers who contributed to the development of the thermometer in the 19th century. In this paper, we use an example from Regnault’s work to explore how the history of thermometry can provide a context for teaching upper-secondary chemistry students about the nature of science (NOS), particularly its aims and values. The study takes form as a hermeneutical spiral, wherein literature on the history and philosophy of science, NOS, the family resemblance approach (FRA), NOS teaching, characteristics of narratives, and the new performative paradigm feed into the spiral, along with input from an empirical study. A teaching unit (n = 21, duration = 90 min) was developed and tested on Norwegian students aged 17–18 years, and a thematic analysis of students’ statements (n = 13) was carried out. The students identified “being first,” “usefulness,” “accuracy,” and “minimalism” as values and aims that guided Regnault’s work. We argue that the use of this particular historical episode framed within FRA (1) invited students to identify with the human actor—Regnault, (2) invited students into the historical context of the development of the thermometer, and (3) demonstrated complexity and provided context to support students’ own construction of their understanding of NOS. To summarize, by deriving the term “research with” from the performative paradigm and using the context of the historical episode related to the thermometer within the FRA framework students were invited to research with Henri Regnault.