Michael Faraday on the Learning of Science and Attitudes of Mind

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The paper makes use of Michael Faraday's ideas about learning, in particular his thoughts about attitudes to the unknowns of science and the development of an attitude which improves scientific decision-making. An invented scenario involving nursery school children demonstrates some attitudes displayed there. Discussion of the scenario and variation in possible outcomes suggests that Faraday's views are relevant to scientific learning in general. The main thesis of the paper is that it is central to learning in science to acknowledge that there is an inner struggle involved in facing unknowns, and that empathy with the fears and expectations of learners is an essential quality if genuinely scientific thought is to develop. It is suggested, following Faraday, that understanding our own feelings while we teach is a pre-requisite to enabling such empathy and that only then will we be in a position to evaluate accurately whether or not our pupils are thinking scientifically.

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