Teacher as Knower and Learner: Reflections on Situated Knowledge in Science Teaching

Margery D. Osborne

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I argue from an understanding of current feminist philosophy that a teacher's practice reflects changing experiences, knowledge, values, and identities, and a such can be productively thought of as a site for learning as much as a site for expounding upon what is known. This suggests a vision for what constitutes effective practice different from that commonly held in science. I argue that praxis proceeds from the personal epistemological standpoints of the teacher (defined as standpoint theory). This knowledge is only partially applicable to particular situations in the classroom. The hallmark of feminist pedagogy, if conceptualized as derivative from standpoint theory, is to "take everyday life as problematic" (Smith, 1991, p. 88). Implicit in such a conceptualization is that pedagogy starts from an explicit recognition of everyday life and both builds from and questions that beginning. This is true for students and also for the teacher, and is the root of my claim that through teaching, the teacher becomes a learner. The immediate circumstances in which teaching occurs present different and unique qualities from those in which the teacher's knowledge and value were created. As a teacher, I am therefore continuously confronted with the inadequacy of my knowledge. The circumstances and children's activities tell me that I need to do things differently. In this situation, the act of teaching as an assertion of knowing becomes a recognition of not-knowing. Teaching becomes an occasion for learning about subject matter, children, and self. I recount an example of teaching in a first-grade classroom to give this argument substance. This story is an example from my own teaching in which parallels between scientific theorizing and storytelling are drawn and capitalized upon as a vehicle for critical thinking in science. This became an occasion for reflecting upon the appropriateness of those values because of the multicultural qualities of the classroom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-439
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Research in Science Teaching
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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