“progressive problemshifts” between different research programs in science education: A lakatosian perspective



Given the importance of epistemology and philosophy of science, the Lakatos (1970) methodology is particularly suited to evaluate competing research programs in science education. This article has two objectives: (a) to evaluate critically the interpretations of Gilbert and Swift (1985) and Rowell and Dawson (1989), and (b) to postulate a progressive problemshift between Piaget's epistemic subject and Pascual-Leone's metasubject. Regarding the Gilbert and Swift interpretation, it is concluded that the alternative conceptions movement at its present stage of development cannot explain the previous success of its rival (Piagetian school) nor supersede it by a further display of heuristic power as required by Lakatos. If we accept the Rowell and Dawson thesis it would amount to the postulation of Piagetian and integrated (Piagetian and schema) theories as rival research programs. It appears that the Rowell and Dawson approach would enrich Piagetian theory with descriptive content rather than explanatory constructs, and thus would not lead to a progressive problemshift. It is concluded that Pascual-Leone's theory extends Piaget's negative heuristic by introducing antecedent variables, and at the same time enriches the positive heuristic by introducing metasubjective task analysis, which leads to a progressive problemshift.