How to Teach the Process of Science
How Do I Teach the Process of Science?This module was authored by Anne E. Egger, Stanford University, as part of a collaboration between Visionlearning and the SERC Pedagogic Service, and includes the products of a July 2009 workshop on Teaching the Process of Science.
Whether you are thinking about making big or small changes in your courses, the same principles apply in emphasizing the process of science:
Be explicitMcGinn & Roth, 1999 ). For example, in teaching about evolution, you might focus on the data that supports the concept of change in organisms rather than on the conclusions that Darwin and others made. In the process, you could emphasize how evolutionary theory is supported by multiple lines of evidence from many lines of research up to the present. Or in a laboratory exercise where students graph a large amount of data, you might ask them to first draw conclusions on their data before graphing it, and again after graphing it, in the process emphasizing the importance that visual representation brings to data analysis.
Most of our textbooks don't explicitly address the process of science. You can read more about Integrating the Process into Readings, and Browse Text Resources that do incorporate the process of science.
Tell storiesKlassen, 2008 ).
In addition, telling science stories can help address some of the conflicts that students may feel between science and religion (Bickmore et al., 2009 ). For more information, read Addressing Science and Religion, contributed by participants in the July 2009 workshop.
Use real data
Perhaps one of the most significant things you can do in your classroom is to give students the opportunity to work with real data (Manduca & Mogk, 2002 ). Nothing can compare with the insight gained by students collecting and working with data, where they have a chance to experience for themselves the challenges and successes that are a part of every scientific endeavor. For more information about how to use data in your classroom, visit the module Teaching with Data.
Assessing student understanding of the process of science can be very challenging, especially when we are far more used to assessing their content knowledge. Several participants in the July 2009 workshop had developed and tested their own instruments, including:
- Nancy Ruggieri, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison - On Assessing Student Understanding of the Nature of Scientific Knowledge (PowerPoint 583kB Jul16 09)
- Kaatje Kraft, Department of Physical Science, Mesa Community College - Using Metacurriculum to Enhance Student Understanding of the Nature of Science (PowerPoint 16.8MB Jul16 09)
- Karen Viskupic, Department of Geosciences, Boise State University - Measuring Geoscience Students' Perceptions of the Nature of Science (PowerPoint 123kB Jul16 09)
- Anthony Carpi, Science Department, John Jay College-CUNY - Incorporating Process-Oriented Instruction Assessment into a Non-majors Science Class (PowerPoint 829kB Jul16 09)
In addition, a number of assessment instruments have been developed for addressing different aspects of the nature of science, the process of science, and student attitudes towards science. These include:
- Views on the Nature of Science Questionnaire (VNOS) is an open-ended questionnaire developed by Norm Lederman, Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, Randy Bell, and Renee Schwartz to test student understanding of several aspects of nature of science concepts. For a complete reference, see Lederman et al., 2002 .
- The Genomics Education Partnership has developed a pre- and post-survey for their biology courses that incorporate student research. The instrument assesses student attitudes towards science and understanding of the nature and process. For a complete reference, see Lopatto et al., 2008 .
For general information about designing effective assessment tools, visit the SERC module on Assessment.