Understanding the complexity of young children's learning and development in science: a twofold methodological model building on constructivist and cultural-historical strengths

Glykeria Fragkiadaki, Marilyn Fleer, Konstantinos Ravanis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Young children's learning and development in Science is a complex process. Although a wide range of epistemological, theoretical and methodological frameworks have informed research in Early Childhood Science Education, capturing this complexity remains a challenge. New ways of conceptualizing and researching young children's engagement with Science are needed for responding to this fundamental challenge. The present study brings together the strengths of constructivist and cultural-historical research perspectives to provide deeper insight and a holistic understanding of the unique way young children experience, make sense of, and conceptualize the natural world. In line with the two basic research approaches, a twofold methodological model is introduced. Empirical data were collected in an early childhood setting during a collective science experience centred on the natural phenomenon of cloud formation. Following a constructivist perspective, the data on children's conceptual understanding of the phenomenon was initially analysed. Then, the same data set was analysed from a cultural-historical perspective. In this second step, the children's whole experience of the phenomenon was also captured. Findings reveal the critical role of the children's overall reality in the science concept formation. The study argues that a dialectical interrelation between the two research perspectives is feasible and essential for understanding children's conceptualizations in the moment, as well as how science concepts are formed in the overall reality of everyday life. This adds to the literature on Early Childhood Science Education, where studies have primarily focused on dividing, rather than bringing together the strengths of the two perspectives. The study contributes to the continual challenge of rethinking and overcoming traditional dichotomies in educational research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100461
Number of pages13
JournalLearning, Culture and Social Interaction
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Constructivism
  • Cultural-historical theory
  • Early childhood education
  • Early years
  • Method of analysis
  • Science education

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