New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Educational Material Culture Scientific teaching collections as educational research artefacts

Nicolas Robin, University of Teacher Education St. Gallen (Switzerland)


What educational and cultural roles do scientific artefacts play in educational settings?  What relevance and utility do they offer educators in this era of multimedia teaching?  Should artefacts, such as a wax flower collection used historically to teach botany, be stored away on a shelf, shared as markers of school culture as historical collections, or used by educators alongside tools such as smart boards, which afford learners virtual experiences with science?  Can we still teach biodiversity with stuffed animals? The project entitled “Educational Material Culture” aims to study such questions and more generally the current uses of scientific objects for teaching of natural sciences at elementary schools and high schools. The first part of the work presented is based on an inventory and theoretical analysis of a school material culture in Europe on the basis of numerous archives and textbooks from the 19th and 20th centuries. The results of this preliminary analysis point out the prominent role of objects in the construction of school culture since the 19th century and call for the need for an inventory of the current situation in schools. The presentation will offer a framework for an upcoming qualitative study based on the materials analysis.  The study will take place with secondary science teachers in eastern Switzerland. This scientific project is part of a more general ongoing reflection on scientific collections, especially in Switzerland, where a new network “Scientific Collections Switzerland” has just been launched (see:

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