The child as a realistic scientist : developing the analogy between science and commonsense (1995)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
The proposal that there are important parallels to be drawn between children's cognitive development and the development of knowledge in science, has prompted a growing interest in the idea that in their interactions with the world young children can be profitably viewed as intuitive scientists. This study sets out to investigate the metaphor of the child as an intuitive scientist by undertaking a detailed examination of both science and children's commonsense thought, and in so doing, demonstrate the utility of the metaphor for developmental inquiry. Chapter 1 addresses the nature of science and the importance of selecting an appropriate model of scientific rationality as the basis for assessments of childhood thought. A realist theory of science is adopted as the most adequate account of scientific inquiry and hence the most appropriate framework with which to pursue child-scientist comparisons. Chapter 2 turns to lay cognition and looks to establish the theoretical status of folk psychology in light of recent claims that a theory is not necessary for comprehending human action. In Chapter 3 the focus turns to young children's knowledge and the question of correspondences with scientific thought. Research detailing the child's development of an understanding of mind is highlighted, indicating that in both the content of their knowledge and in the processes by which such knowledge is advanced, children bear a striking resemblance to scientists. Having demonstrated the plausibility of the child-as-scientist metaphor, Chapter 4 looks at ways to further develop child-scientist comparisons in order to achieve a valuable perspective on knowledge acquisition in childhood. Existing approaches to developing the metaphor are evaluated and in light of their limitations an alternative formulation is drafted, which argues that a focus on children's methods of inquiry informed by a realist perspective on science, constitutes the most profitable approach to developing the child-as-scientist metaphor. This study concludes that the metaphor of the child as an intuitive scientist with 'science' understood in realist terms, is a plausible metaphor for developmental inquiry to pursue. More specifically, by refocussing child-scientist comparisons at the methodological level and drawing on a comprehensive theory of scientific method to inform such comparisons, this study provides some directives as to how such a research program might best proceed.
KeywordsScience--Study and teaching (Early childhood); Problem solving in children; Reasoning in children; Commonsense reasoning; Ethnopsychology; Cognitive psychology
RightsAll Rights Reserved
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