Student Thinking and Learning in Science: Perspectives on the Nature and Development of Learners' Ideas, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Student Thinking and Learning in Science

Perspectives on the Nature and Development of Learners' Ideas, 1st Edition

By Keith S. Taber


224 pages

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This readable and informative survey of key ideas about students’ thinking in science builds a bridge between theory and practice by offering clear accounts from research, and showing how they relate to actual examples of students talking about widely taught science topics.

Focused on secondary students and drawing on perspectives found in the international research literature, the goal is not to offer a comprehensive account of the vast literature, but rather to provide an overview of the current state of the field suitable for those who need an understanding of core thinking about learners’ ideas in science, including science education students in teacher preparation and higher degree programs, and classroom teachers, especially those working with middle school, high school, or college level students. Such understanding can inform and enrich science teaching in ways which are more satisfying for teachers, less confusing and frustrating for learners, and so ultimately can lead to both greater scientific literacy and more positive attitudes to science.


"I encourage science teachers of all specialities who are looking to enhance their classroom practice to pick up a copy of Student thinking and learning in science and accept Keith’s challenge to take on the role of ‘a science learning doctor’ and look to diagnose, prevent and ultimately cure bugs in their own teaching." - Catherine Smith, Education in Chemistry, Nov 2014

Table of Contents




Section 1. Student conceptions and science

Introduction. The things students say: learners’ ideas about science topics

Chapter 1. Why is learning science so difficult for many students?

Chapter 2. Characterising and labelling learners’ ideas

Chapter 3. Alternative conceptions of learning

Section 2. Making sense of student thinking

Chapter 4. Innateness and development: cognitive biases influencing learners’ ideas

Chapter 5. Developing intuitions about the world

Chapter 6. The role of language in learning science

Chapter 7. The influence of everyday beliefs

Chapter 8. Thinking about knowing and learning: Metacognitive and epistemological limitations on science learning

Chapter 9. Integrating knowledge and constructing conceptual frameworks

Section 3. Diagnosing student thinking in science learning

Chapter 10. A provisional synthesis: Learning, teaching, and ‘bugs’ in the system

Chapter 11. The science teacher as learning doctor

Chapter 12. Science teaching informed by an appreciation of student thinking

About the Author

Keith S. Taber is University Reader in Science Education, University of Cambridge, UK.

About the Series

Teaching and Learning in Science Series

The Teaching and Learning in Science Series brings together theoretical and practical scholarship emanating from a wide range of research approaches and paradigms on an equally wide variety of topics.

International concerns about the quality of the teaching and learning of science continue to increase across countries, states, provinces, and local communities with each round of international assessments. During a period of expansive reform in science education, it is especially important that the most current research in areas of critical concern be synthesized for use by both practitioners and researchers.

Proposals for authored or edited books are encouraged that address research and practice in the teaching and learning of science and/or any aspects of the current reforms in science education. The primary focus is the theoretical and practical importance of the problem being investigated. Equal consideration will be given to theoretically oriented and practitioner-oriented proposals. It is hoped that this series will generate as many critical questions as answers it may provide. Themes for prospective manuscripts may include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • the practicality of scientific literacy
  • science for "all" in urban and rural settings
  • scientific inquiry
  • nature of science
  • student misconceptions
  • conceptual change
  • teacher education
  • curriculum development
  • educational policy
  • high stakes testing
  • alternative teacher certification
  • apprenticeship models
  • curriculum integration
  • problem-based learning
  • special needs students and science reforms
  • teacher knowledge and beliefs
  • informal science education
  • classroom discourse
  • professional development
  • teacher/scientist collaborations
  • technology integration
  • equity and diversity within a climate of change

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Curricula
EDUCATION / Teaching Methods & Materials / Science & Technology