Do science teachers need to have a working knowledge of philosophy?

It’s often been put forward that one of the aims of science teaching is to make students scientifically literate, to ensure that they can read and criticise science in the media, to understand scientific practice and how scientific knowledge has been developed, and to understand the limitations of science. This is supposed to make them more engaged in learning science, as science is then not just a boring ‘body of facts’, and more likely to take it on to further study, and also to give them a toolkit of skills which they need to be an informed scientifically literate citizen, even if they stop studying science at 16.

Do science teachers need to have a working knowledge of philosophy?

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One Response to Do science teachers need to have a working knowledge of philosophy?

  1. Not necessary but useful. I’m yet to be convinced that the laudable aim of improving students’ understanding of the epistemiology of science has much effect on their ability to critically assess science in the media. For me it ends up in the same basket as ‘teach students to understand credit and then they won’t get into debt’. It doesn’t always hurt to try these things, but the reason students don’t critically engage with information in the media is probably less down to a lack of tools and more down to well known factors influencing how we select and interpret information. I suspect there’s also more than a little smell of teaching that “science doesn’t know everything so therefore it can’t be used to refute this particular thing I want to be true”, climate change for example. I’m not sure how many other subjects in school have to spend time explicitly teaching students the limitations of their own subject.

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