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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An exploratory study in conceptualizing children's investigatory activities of natural phenomena by utilizing Thomas S. Kuhn's view of science as a theoretical framework Lindberg, Wayne Charles


The study, by exploiting Thomas S. Kuhn’s view of scientific development, attempted to establish a theoretical basis for teaching and learning science in the classroom. At the present preliminary stage of the exploratory study, the writer concentrated on Kuhn's historical pattern of science in which paradigms form research traditions separated by scientific revolutions resulting in new and more sophisticated views of the field. The writer felt that the acquisition of views of natural phenomena by children might follow some sort of evolutionary, Kuhnian-like pattern of paradigmatic investigatory activities. These activities would be separated by transitional periods of effort or paradigm-like shifts resulting in new and incommensurate ways of seeing natural phenomena. To facilitate the recognition of such a pattern of intellectual behaviour by children, the writer formulated a teacher role based on ideas drawn from Kuhn. The present study attempted to provide apparent examples of children's modes of thought and speculative bases: for some of their actions. By observing children's investigatory activities, involving sinking and floating objects, the writer found some support for what he has termed child-paradigms or points of view about natural events. All children, for example appeared to hold a child-paradigm that objects sink when filled with water. Support was also found for Kuhn's suggestion that children's views often show striking parallels to those of Aristotelians. In this case, the learners appeared to see water as an external, Aristotelian-like, motive force which causes objects to sink or move from their natural floating positions. During the course of their activities, all children appeared to encounter numerous novel observations or anomalies -- facts and findings inconsistent with their expectations. Applying the point of view that objects sink when filled with water, all learners discovered that the plastic straw floated. The assimilation of anomaly, in one instance, resulted in what has been termed a child-paradigm shift. During this experience the child's earlier view that floating objects do not displace water was replaced by a more sophisticated view involving water displacement. Although only one child-paradigm shift or perceptual-conceptual transposition seemed reasonably evident in the study, the writer felt that this concept was useful in accounting for children's acquisition of modern scientific views. He speculated that a modified teacher role could facilitate shifts in children's perception. In addition, he speculated about the potential usefulness of the study for classroom teaching and suggested several problems for future investigation related to curriculum development.

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