Understanding Science 101

Judy Scotchmoor

University of California Museum of Paleontology
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


Understanding Science is a freely accessible web-based resurce that provides a new approach for teaching the nature and process of science.

Course URL: http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/intro_01
Course Size:

greater than 150

Course Context:

This is an on-line set of resources that can easily be modified for course content for use by others. It is not currently being taught as a course.

Course Goals:

Students will understand that:
Science explains the natural world using evidence from the natural world.
Science is a creative and dynamic process.
Science does not prove or conclude; science is always a work in progress.
Scientists use multiple lines of evidence to test hypothesis.
Science can test hypotheses about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.
Science is both a human and community endeavor.

Students will be able to:
Recognize what is and what is not science.
Develop a scientific argument.
Think critically.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Fostering effective understandings about the nature and process of science needn't require reorganizing your entire curriculum. Simple shifts in how content and activities are approached can make a big difference in overcoming student misconceptions and building more accurate views of the process of science.

Educational research supports the following strategies for teaching about the scientific endeavor:
- Make it explicit: Key concepts regarding the nature and process of science should be explicitly and independently emphasized. Engaging in inquiry and studying the history of science are most helpful when the nature-of-science concepts they exemplify are explicitly drawn out in discussion and interactions.
- Help them reflect: Throughout instruction, students should be encouraged to examine, test, and revise their ideas about what science is and how it works.
- Give it context, again and again: Key concepts about the nature and process of science should be revisited in multiple contexts throughout the school year, allowing students to see how they apply to real-world situations.

Understanding Science provides a variety of resources to help teachers put these strategies into action.

Skills Goals

critical thinking

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

see above

Attitudinal Goals

Improving student interest in and attitudes toward science
Increasing understanding that science is accessible to and practiced by a diverse community

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

See above


See above. Plus we provide a pre- and post-test "Thinking about science" available at http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/1316_activities.php.