SAMPLE REVIEW ARTICLE: Use of the concept of Bildung in the international science education literature, its potential, and implications for teaching and learning

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  • Jesper Sjöström Malmö University
  • Nadja Frerichs University of Bremen
  • Vânia G. Zuin Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar)
  • Ingo Eilks University of Bremen


Bildung, educational metatheory, philosophy of science education, visions of scientific literacy, socio-scientific issues, emancipation, citizenship education, environmental education, Didaktik


Bildung is a complex educational concept that emerged in Germany in the mid eighteenth century. Especially in Germany and Scandinavia conceptions of Bildung became the general philosophical framework to guide both formal and informal education. Bildung concerns the whole range of education from setting educational objectives in general towards its particular operation in different school subjects, among them science education. In more recent years, the concept of Bildung has slowly begun to be used in the international science and environmental education literature. This paper presents a systematic analysis of the international literature concerning the use of the concept of Bildung, with a view on its meaning in and for science education. At least five versions based on or closely connected to the tradition of Bildung can be identified: (a) Von Humboldt’s classical Bildung, (b) Anglo-American liberal education, (c) Scandinavian folk-Bildung, (d) democratic education, and (e) critical-hermeneutic Bildung. These different understandings of Bildung are discussed in relation to their historical roots, educational theory, critique, and their relation to philosophies of science education, such as different visions of scientific literacy. Based on critical-hermeneutic Bildung, the paper theoretically develops views of critical-reflexive Bildung as an educational metatheory. It is connected to ideas of transformative learning, sustainability education and a Vision III of scientific literacy. Finally, some implications of critical-reflexive Bildung for teaching and learning are discussed.