Teaching What Is “Real” About Science: Critical Realism as a Framework for Science Education

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Discourse about public perception of science is often positioned as a dichotomy between trust in scientific evidence and scientists as experts, versus critiques of the limitations of scientific knowledge and a mistrust in scientists as biased professionals and political agents. However, this dichotomy becomes something of a false argument, as our tendency to look for the “right” answer in these arguments often gets in the way of finding a balancing point in which both of these positions could be held in productive tension. The purpose of the present article is to lay out the argument that society can both trust in scientific evidence and question scientific bias in the same space, holding these two seemingly opposite positions in productive tension, and that we should teach students to do the same. Critical realism is presented as an ontology and epistemology to frame science education, and focus on the development of critical scientific literacy by teaching students what is real and what is arbitrary about science. Recommendations for science education are outlined, grounded in critical realism and connected to current education research and principles of the nature of science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1651-1669
Number of pages19
JournalScience and Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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