We explain what a paradigm is and its function in the history of science. Also, paradigms of social research and education.

Each discipline changes its paradigm throughout history.

What is a paradigm?

The concept of paradigm is complex, since the use of the term often depends on the area of ​​knowledge from which it is viewed. However, it is generally understood as synonymous of "model" or "example". That is the original meaning of the word, from the Greek paradeigma, that is, "template" or "pattern".

In general, talking about a paradigm is talking about something exemplary, that is, something characteristic of a vision or perspective, or something that summarizes a system of thought or to get things done. Put very broadly, a paradigm is a model. That is why it is often spoken of philosophical, mathematical, political paradigms, and so on.

Throughout the history, the different disciplines and aspects of human knowledge have operated according to very different paradigms, that is, to different ways of proceeding and thinking. But as new discoveries or developments became possible, the human capacity for reasoning allowed to demolish the old ones structures and building new ones, which translates into a paradigm shift, as we will see later.

Scientific paradigm

The contemporary use of the term paradigm was used for the first time in connection with the Sciences, and is the result of the thought of Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996), an American physicist, historian of science and philosopher, from 1960.

According to him, a paradigm is “a complete constellation of beliefs, values Y techniques”That define the exercise of a scientific discipline at a certain moment in its history, that is, its general way of understanding itself: the methods who chooses, the problems it addresses and the theories it accepts and takes for granted.

It is a broad concept, equivalent to a thought matrix or disciplinary matrix that is shared by the entire scientific community. Obviously, the paradigms of antiquity They were not the same as those of the medieval, nor are they the same as the current ones, so through this concept we can understand the revolutionary work of science in the history of ideas.

A clear example of how the scientific paradigm operates is the standard model of particles that supports the physical theoretical. This model explains how the matter and, as far as we know, how the subatomic particles, which are impossible to see with simple instruments, and therefore defines the way we think, experience and understand physics.

But the way of understanding matter has not always been the same. Each transit between one model and another has been accompanied by a way of understanding the world and science itself, from the models that involved God, until today.

Some scientific paradigms are: the positivist, the post-positivist or the constructivist.

Paradigms of social research

Something similar to the previous case occurs when thinking about the research in social Sciences. That is, the fact of research can be understood and put into practice according to, fundamentally, two different models, which are:

  • Quantitative paradigm. Social research, defined under quantitative standards, aspires to build a knowledge the most objective possible, which does not take into account the subjectivities of the actors involved, but relies on statistical techniques, secondary data analysis and other tools that allow them to understand the conduct human from its tendencies, making generalizations based on data empirical.
  • Qualitative paradigm. Instead, this other paradigm focuses its attention on the understanding of social meanings, that is, of what the way in which people think about different social realities. For this, they prefer tools based on the analysis of speech, the creativity social or life stories, since the important thing is to understand how subjectivities determine social behavior.

Educational paradigms

The constructivist paradigm seeks a more leading role for the student.

In the case of educational paradigms, they refer to the way in which the educational act is thought and understood, that is, the different pedagogical models that are put into practice in educational institutions. In this case, there are four main paradigms, which are:

  • The paradigm behaviorist. Supported by an objectivist or "scientific" view of the education, aspires to quantifiable, observable and concrete results, through a system of learning by conditioning, through rewards and punishments.
  • The paradigm cognitive. Instead, it focuses on understanding the learning process through inquiry that dives into the individual's psyche for answers. This vision is extremely rationalist: the conscience and the lucid mind are seen as the protagonists of the educational act.
  • The environmental paradigm. Also called the historical-social or socio-cultural paradigm, it focuses more on the learning process itself than on the obtainable results, and proposes that learning takes place in close relationship with the environment, so that by controlling the environment, can control education.
  • The constructivist paradigm. The most recent trend of all, proposes an educational model in which the student plays a more leading role, discovering the reality from their own experiences and the contrast with their peers, actively seeking the information instead of taking a passive role.

Paradigm shift

According to Kuhn's previously explained vision, paradigm shifts occur when a model fails in its task of interpreting certain aspects of reality. In other cases, the reality changes in such a way that it forces to produce a new worldview, since the paradigm is not only a current theory, but an entire system of beliefs and presuppositions.

Kuhn called paradigm shifts "scientific revolutions". Hence, the expression "paradigm shift" was taken in the language popular to refer to a change in perspectives, methods or trends on a large scale, applicable to any other area of ​​human knowledge or experience.

Enigma and paradigm

Words "enigma"And" paradigm "have nothing to do with each other. An enigma is a mystery or a riddle without an answer, on the other hand, a paradigm is a way of considering things, that is, a general way of thinking and / or acting, which defines the perspectives of an era, a culture or a discipline.

Thus, for example, the large revolutions they have broken the paradigms of their times, forcing us to think in a different way what until then we thought as resolved and understood.

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