The paper discusses why and how students within humanities and social science in the context of higher education must learn to implement theory of science, in terms of applying methods and approaches from philosophical theories such as positivism, hermeneutics, phenomenology, structuralism etc., in their understanding and application of knowledge.
The background for the discussion is the observation that theory of science in terms of a fundamental and philosophical approach to a specific topic very often is implemented in the methodology of students’ projects and assignments as external ‘ism’s which do not play the role as an important resource for investigation of the topic they are dealing with. The assumption is that there is a lack of ontological complexity in the way many students understand and deal with knowledge because they do not connect the act of knowledge production with a fundamental and philosophical interpretation of man and social reality. The consequence is that the students’ understanding of knowledge production is not combined with a more fundamental discussion of how human self-interpretation of man as a producer of knowledge influences processes of knowledge production.
This paper will focus on the actual role theory of science might have as a resource for students understanding and investigation of topics within their disciplinary area. Theory of science as a philosophical discipline deals with ontological matters due to being a discipline where concepts and theories concerning reality and epistemology are discussed and developed. In this sense the challenge for students might be to be able to deal with ontological complexity related to disciplinary topics. An important question is why it is relevant for the students in the postmodern university to deal with ontological matters when they learn a disciplinary area and in this context design strategies for investigations and project writing. Due to the massification of education and research (Gibbons 1998, 2005) in most universities the tendency is that science and research have become oriented towards practice, partnerships and social economy and therefore problem solving practice has been the important part of what students need to learn. Michael Gibbons describes it as a shift in the culture of knowledge production where for example knowledge production in terms of quantification is a tendency.
The idea of this paper is to discuss the role of theory of science in teaching and learning in the actual university context. It is to be discussed why a discussion of ontological complexity is relevant for the understanding of scientific work for both the researcher of today and the academics which are to apply research strategies and results in there working life.
The objective is to develop the theoretical foundation of a didactics of the cross disciplinary discipline ‘theory of science’ that is to discuss the content and function of theory of science within humanities and social science with the aim to provide teaching and learning strategies which help students to conduct investigations where ontological complexity comes into light.
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