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In this paper we consider how theories of learning can inform the practice of science teaching in formal settings. We describe two broad strands of learning theory that have been drawn upon in science education, namely individual and sociocultural views. We show how aspects of both views can usefully inform our understanding of teaching and learning science in formal settings. A perspective on science learning in formal settings is presented which draws on and develops features of both individual and sociocultural views, and the implications of this perspective on science learning for research and practice are discussed. The paper concludes with reflections on some of the recent critiques of so-called ‘constructivist views of learning’ in the light of the perspective developed.