I’ve recently been reading about theories and strategies to introduce narrative in K12 science education. Much of the research concerns efforts to develop students’ appreciation of the “aesthetics” of scientific inquiry. One suggestion is to include more narrative accounts of how scientists go about the business of scientific inquiry. I don’t believe this is unprecedented, it’s simply not the way we’ve come to expect a scientific experience to occur in the classroom.Yet there is a rich history of scientists who weave their personal learning and experience into the accounts of their findings.
One of my favorites is Johannes Kepler, who would often write lengthy accounts describing his own failed experiments. Critics complained he did this to exaggerate the difficulty of his work but I believe that a blend of narrative and inquiry is important. It presents a picture of not just achieved results but the grit, focus, and unquenchable curiosity that characterizes much of our scientific heritage. Why we conduct science and what we feel we are achieving (or perhaps meant to achieve) is a subjective human element that students have a right to explore when they are asked to participate in science education.