A constructivist paradigm has dominated science education research in recent years. According to this view, students use their existing reconceptions to interpret new experiences, and in doing so, these preconceptions may become modified or revised. In this way, science learning proceeds as children actively reconstruct their ideas as they become presented with new information. However, the implications of constructivism for classroom teaching are still open to question. This position paper refers to the science education literature to argue that strategies to arouse and maintain student motivation should be a crucial component of constructivist-informed classroom teaching. This is because constructivism is universally accepted to be an active process - students must make an effort to reconstruct their ideas, so it follows that if they are not motivated to make that effort then no learning will occur. However, extant models of constructivist classroom teaching make little if any mention of student motivation. In these models, the focus has typically been on strategies to elicit students' prior conceptions and to guide and monitor their progress towards more scientific conceptions, but the motivational impetus for this process has received little attention. Perhaps one reason for this is that there are relatively few studies of student motivation in the science education literature. Another possible reason is the lack of a unified theory of motivation, which means that there is no clear consensus on how best to motivate students in the classroom. In view of this situation, there is a need for studies which can clarify motivational strategies in science classrooms. "Situational interest" is one motivation construct which appears to offer considerable potential, yet it has been largely ignored by science education researchers. Situational interest occurs when a particular situation generates interest in the majority of students in the class - a spectacular science demonstration might arouse transient situational interest even in students who are not normally interested in science. The potential of this construct lies in the fact that studies outside of science have shown that when situational interest is aroused on a number of occasions it can result in longterm personal interest and motivation in the topic. It is thus a potentially powerful construct for science education, and is one which should be further explored.
Science Education Issues and Development p. 201-222