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Studies in Science Education

ISSN: 0305-7267 (Print) 1940-8412 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rsse20

Professor Rosalind H. Driver (1941-1997)


To cite this article: (1997) Professor Rosalind H. Driver (1941-1997), Studies in Science
Education, 30:1, 1-4, DOI: 10.1080/03057269708560100
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057269708560100

Published online: 26 Mar 2008.

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Date: 10 June 2016, At: 11:18

Studies in Science Education, 30 (1997) 1-4

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Professor Rosalind H. Driver (1941-1997)


Rosalind Driver died at home at 6.30 p.m. on Thursday 30 October 1997,
after a long illness.
Rosalind Driver was one of the pre-eminent figures in science education
of her generation. She was a major presence on both the national and
international stages, attracting interest and respect both from science education
researchers and science teachers. Throughout her professional career she
displayed an enduring passion for science education. She took very seriously
the responsibility of seeking to improve our understanding of what is involved
in teaching and learning science and, indeed, what might constitute an
education in science.
She was educated at Nottingham High School for Girls, and went on to
study at the University of Manchester where she graduated in physics, a subject
whose intellectual demands and rigour were always a source of great
fascination and interest for her. It was at this time that she met her future
husband, Geoff.
After completing her degree, there followed a period of several years
teaching which ultimately led her to the University of Illinois, to work as a
research assistant with Jack Easley on a project examining the cognitive
behaviour of children. It was this work that was to lead to her Ph.D., awarded
in 1973, on the representation of conceptual frameworks in young adolescent
science students.
Her thesis presented an argument that was radical at the time. Students'
everyday knowledge of natural phenomena was viewed as a coherent
framework of ideas, based on a commonsense interpretation of their
experience in living in the world, rather than as 'misunderstandings' or
'mistakes'. These arguments, published in an article in Studies in Science
Education in 1978, were to offer a new language for the description of
children's thinking. No longer were their ideas 'naive notions' but rather
'alternative frameworks' or 'interpretative models'. Furthermore, she argued
against the dominance of the Piagetian stage theory of development. Together
with Easley, she proposed that children's cognitive development may be more
like a series of Kuhnian paradigm shifts, with new ideas about a phenomenon
replacing older ones. She argued that children's learning was dependent upon
their existing ideas about phenomena, rather than limited by their
developmental stage. Through this work, Rosalind Driver became one of the
main progenitors of the constructivist movement that was to dominate science
education throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s.

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Jonathan Osborne, John Leach, Phil Scott

In 1974 Rosalind Driver was appointed Lecturer in Physics and Science


Education at the University of Leeds. Her interest in research soon led to an
appointment as Senior Research Fellow (1977) and then Deputy Director
(1979-82) of the Assessment of Performance Unit (APU) science project, which
was based jointly at the University of Leeds and Chelsea College, later part of
King's College London. This major research project set out to document
student achievement in science during the years of compulsory secondary
schooling in England and Wales.
However, her most influential work stemmed from her period as Director
of the Children's Learning In Science Project (1982-1989) and the Children's
Learning In Science Research Group (1990-1995) based at the University of
Leeds. The CLIS Project, funded by the UK government, was established to
investigate possible reasons for the poor performance of students in science
that had been identified by the APU. The early work of CLIS drew upon
arguments to be found in her seminal book The Pupil as Scientist? (1983, Open
University Press). For many teachers this volume provided an introduction to
the work of Ros Driver. As a result, many changed their perceptions of
children's learning, and started to respond to children's thinking more directly
in their teaching. Written in a simple and clear style, the book was a reflection
of Ros's view that research can often be of practical relevance to the classroom
science teacher and can underpin curriculum development. Consequently, it is
no surprise that Ros Driver's name became so well known amongst science
teachers in the UK and elsewhere.
The work of the CLIS project was firmly based on a collaborative effort
between CLIS researchers and science teachers from the West Yorkshire region.
In developing the CLIS in the Classroom teaching materials as many as fifty
teachers were involved in three working groups over a period of two years. Ros
Driver was at the heart of the activity, always welcoming teachers to the
university, always appreciative of their work, always intent on talking and
thinking through how theory might inform classroom practice. Through this
activity many teachers became involved in reflecting on their own practice, in
developing new teaching approaches, in attending conferences, in running
workshops for various audiences and in studying for higher degrees in
education. Professionally, these were liberating and exciting times.
The work of the CLIS project led to many more important publications,
in particular an edited volume (with Andre Tiberghien and Edith Guesne)
aptly entitled Children's Ideas in Science (1985, Open University Press), and
further valuable resources for teacher professional development. By the mid1980s, scholars from all over the world were travelling to Leeds to work with
Ros Driver and her colleagues. The standing of her work was recognised in

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Professor Rosalind H. Driver (1941-1997)

1986 by her appointment to a Readership, and then in 1989 when she was
appointed to a Chair in Science Education at Leeds. This growing reputation
led to her being asked to serve in many other capacities. In particular, she was
a member of the Science Working Group for the National Curriculum for
England and Wales. She received many invitations to present her work, both
nationally and internationally. In 1995 she was appointed Professor of Science
Education at King's College, London, following the retirement of Paul Black.
In a very real sense Ros Driver saw research as a team enterprise and was
always keen to encourage and support those whom she worked with. The
delight of collaborating with Ros was the sheer passion and enthusiasm that
she brought to whatever project she was working on. Endowed with the gift of
being not only an eloquent speaker, but also a good listener, she took an avid
interest in colleagues' ideas and work, always willing to argue the point, but
always offering the reassuring support so vital to sustain research work
through the many dark hours and difficult periods. Moreover, she led by
example a maelstrom of energy and hard work that carried those fortunate
enough to be her colleagues with her, and gained their highest respect and
commitment. This interest in her colleagues, both in the UK and abroad, led to
a wide national and international network of friends and colleagues. A
Canadian colleague recently wrote of what she had learnt from Ros's work:'...
when I read her writings or when I listen to her talk, I learn a way of being, a
way of doing research, of talking about it and a way of talking to people...'.
During the 1990s, the focus of Ros Driver's work shifted towards
explaining progression in conceptual understanding, through cross-sectional
studies. In addition, students' conceptions of the nature of science and the
promotion of 'scientific literacy' became more prominent in her work and she
extended its scope to include undergraduates' learning in science. A feature of
Ros's approach to research was a willingness to develop and extend her own
theoretical perspectives, recognising issues not addressed in earlier work,
rather than defending a existing position for the sake of it. She was the lead
author of a number of influential publications in science education, notably
'Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom' (Educational Researcher,
1994) and Young People's Images of Science (Open University Press, 1996).
Whilst at King's College, even though suffering from the onset of cancer, she
gained funding for a series of seminars, attended by leading science educators
in the UK, which explored the shape of the future science curriculum, and for
a proposal to investigate pupils' and parents' views about the science
curriculum. In August of this year she heard that she had been successful in a
proposal for a project to explore and develop the skills of argumentation in
school science.

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Jonathan Osborne, John Leach, Phil Scott

Ros was instrumental in working with science educators in Europe to


establish the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA). The
Association, inaugurated at the European Conference on Research in Science
Education held at Leeds in April 1995, now organises a biennial conference
which alternates with a summer school for PhD students in science education.
She was delighted to be able to attend the First Conference of the Association
in Rome, two months before she died, and once again to meet and discuss her
work with many old friends.
A crowning moment in her career was the award this year in Chicago of
the plaque and citation for Distinguished Service to Research in Science
Education by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching
(NARST). Those of us who were there will remember the enthusiastic standing
ovation that this well-deserved award received from science education research
community.
If we are to be judged by what we leave for future generations, then Ros
Driver's work in changing our understanding of what it means to teach and
learn science must be regarded as a considerable and enduring legacy. For those
of us who knew her professionally, her death prompts particular sadness. She
still had so much to offer. We shall all miss Ros's energy and enthusiasm, her
scholarly interests and wisdom. We shall miss her warmth, humanity and
friendship.
Ros is survived by Geoff Driver, her husband of 34 years, and her son,
Robert.
Jonathan Osborne
John Leach
Phil Scott