Reporter 411, 1 December 1997


Professor Rosalind H Driver (1941-1997)

Rosalind Driver died on 30 October 1997, after fighting against cancer for more than a year. Ros was appointed as a lecturer in physics and science education at The University of Leeds in 1974, and was awarded a Personal Chair in 1989. In 1995, she took up the Chair of Science Education at King's College, London. Educated at Nottingham High School for Girls, Manchester University (Physics B.Sc.) and University of Illinois (Ph.D.) she drew together ideas on cognitive behaviour in children and how they influenced the manner in which pupils learned science. Her Ph.D. 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'. She argued that children's learning was dependent upon existing ideas about a phenomenon, rather than being limited by a child's developmental stage. Her most influential work stems 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). The early work of CLIS drew upon work described 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. Teachers changed their perceptions of children's learning, and started to respond to children's thinking more directly in their teaching. Moreover, 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 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), and she became one of the major forces of the constructivist movement that has recently dominated science education.

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 promoting 'scientific literacy' became more prominent in her work and she extended the scope of her work to look at students' learning of science at the undergraduate level. She was the lead author of a number of influential publications in science education such as Constructing Scientific Knowledge in the Classroom (Educational Researcher, 1994) and Young People's Images of Science (Open University Press, 1996).

Those who worked with Ros and CLISP as practicing science teachers experienced exciting and rewarding times. Research work was always a genuine collaboration, and went hand in hand with professional development. Ros created an atmosphere whereby university researchers and classroom teachers could work together on problems of children's learning, each bringing their own expertise to the process, and each respecting the other's contribution.

In 1995 Rosalind Driver moved to London and was working to develop initial teacher education at King's, to establish contacts with local teacher networks and to contribute to continuing professional development programmes, as well as to develop her own research interests. She continued this work with an astonishing energy throughout her fight against cancer. Her untimely death signals the loss of a major figure from the international science education community. The moving messages of condolence from so many science teachers and science educators bear elegant testimony to the high esteem in which Ros was held as a person and the deep respect she had gained for her teaching and research. For those of us that knew her professionally, her death prompts particular sadness in that 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.

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