Science & Education

, Volume 25, Issue 3–4, pp 363–381 | Cite as

Conflicting Interpretations of Scientific Pedagogy



Not surprisingly historical studies have suggested that there is a distance between concepts of teaching methods, their interpretations and their actual use in the classroom. This issue, however, is not always pitched to the personal level in historical studies, which may provide an alternative insight on how teachers conceptualise and engage with concepts of teaching methods. This article provides a case study on this level of conceptualisation by telling the story of Rómulo de Carvalho, an educator from mid-twentieth century Portugal, who for over 40 years engaged with the heuristic and Socratic methods. The overall argument is that concepts of teaching methods are open to different interpretations and are conceptualised within the melting pot of external social pressures and personal teaching preferences. The practice and thoughts of Carvalho about teaching methods are scrutinised to unveil his conflicting stances: Carvalho was a man able to question the tenets of heurism, but who publicly praised the heurism-like “discovery learning” method years later. The first part of the article contextualises the arrival of heurism in Portugal and how Carvalho attacked its philosophical tenets. In the second part, it dwells on his conflicting positions in relation to pupil-centred approaches. The article concludes with an appreciation of the embedded conflicting nature of the appropriation of concepts of teaching methods, and of Carvalho’s contribution to the development of the philosophy of practical work in school science.


Science Education Science Teacher Teaching Method Heuristic Method Inductive Method 



I would like to express my gratitude to Jim Donnelly, who kindly supported me in the development of this study with his ever-clear understanding of educational issues. Likewise, I must thank very much indeed the anonymous reviewer who scrutinised in detail the structure and argument of this article. Their involvement, criticism and suggestions were invaluable and truly appreciated.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canterbury Christ Church UniversityCanterburyUK

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