Development of Successful Science Education Research: The Contribution of the Late Professor Alex H. Johnstone

Norman Reid


This is the first of a series of review papers. This paper reviews the very considerable contribution of the late Professor Alex H Johnstone to the world of science education research. The aim is to show the main areas he explored and the way he directed his research work which was almost entirely undertaken by his research students. Starting his research in the 1960s, he looked at the areas of difficulty that school students faced in understanding highly conceptual subjects like chemistry. He found the fundamental reason why such difficulties are to be seen and then applied this finding to all areas of teaching and learning at school and at university stages. In this, he made major contributions to formal teaching (like lecturing), group work, laboratory work and assessment. The impact of his work is evaluated and key aspects identified. For many years, he was the Director of the Centre for Science Education at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Here, he supervised perhaps 100 research students from many countries. He received numerous awards and published a very large number of papers as well as twenty books. He directed research following approaches well established in other disciplines. Overall, he offered model for undertaking quality research which can guide and inspire us for the future.

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