Scientific Habits of the Mind

For several years, at the Early Career workshop, Dave Mogk showed the following quotations and posed the questions below to workshop participants.

Quotations from Guiding Documents

  • "...infuse the joy of discovery and an awareness of its connections to exploration through directed inquiry and careful observation, and analytic thinking for students at all levels" (NSF In a Changing World, 1995)
  • "...all students have access to supportive, excellent undergraduate education in SMET, and all students learn these subjects by direct experience with the methods and processes of inquiry" (Shaping the Future: New Expectations for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology; NSF 96-139)

Questions for Geoscience Faculty

  • What are the scientific habits of the mind that you hope to engender in your students?
  • Reflect on your own experience as a student—what were the valuable lessons you've learned in your own educational path; as a teacher—what are your expectations for student performance and learning outcomes; and as a researcher—what methods, approaches, practices inform and enable your scientific work?

  • Reasoned use of evidence
  • Acquisition and evaluation of the quality of evidence
  • Critical thinking; address questions, methods, interpretations
  • Inquiring, evaluating
  • Verifiable data, testable hypotheses
  • Rigorous proof
  • Predictability
  • Curiosity – Wonder – Awe
  • Skepticism; question authority; be open minded
  • Openness to new ideas
  • Comfortable with revision to ideas
  • The ability to identify and avoid bias
  • Integrity, fairness, intellectual honesty, ethical behavior
  • Computational, estimation skills
  • Observational, measurement skills; attention to detail
  • Ability to see patterns, relations
  • Data manipulation and presentation skills
  • Sense of wonder, excitement
  • Asking questions is as important as finding answers
  • Ability to relate data, explanations, process to a non-scientist
  • Multiple working hypotheses vs. "linear" thinking
  • Ability to communicate (accurately) what you know
  • Comfortable with uncertainty, ambiguity
  • Connections of data to other things
  • Perseverance, follow-through, learn from failure
  • Inspiration, intuition