For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Exploring Geoscience Methods Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
Unit 1: How Do the Methods of Geoscience Compare to the Scientific Method?
Have you ever thought about how scientists in different disciplines use different methods, but they are all still scientific? You might have learned about "the" scientific method in the past, and you might have learned that scientists need to use experiments, but experiments are only one way to test ideas. In reality, there are many ways that scientists test their ideas, and it is rare for geoscientists to use experiments. So what do they do? This unit will introduce you to the methods of geoscience, and allow you to reflect on how what you learn about these methods changes your conception of the scientific method.
By the end of this unit, you will be able to:
- Describe and evaluate your own thinking about the generalizability of how humans produce new scientific knowledge (aka the scientific method).
- Compare and contrast the methods of geoscience with stereotypical experimental science, especially in relation to the complexity and scales (spatial and temporal) of Earth systems.
On your own, write a paragraph that answers the following questions: 1) What is the scientific method as you understand it? 2) Is your description of the scientific method a valid description of the way that all science is conducted? Why or why not?
In table groups of three to six students, discuss your initial ideas about the generalizability of scientific methods with your peers, followed by a discussion as a whole class. Your instructor might use a visual prompt such as displaying the results of a web search for "images scientific method," which will show the most common schema for generalization of a scientific method.
On your own, read the following article about the methods of geoscience:
- Multiple Modes of Inquiry in Earth Science: Helping students understand the scientific process beyond laboratory experimentation, The Science Teacher, January 2008, 26-31. Note: This article is available for free to all, but you may need to register for the website or log in to your NSTA account in order to access it. The registration is a free process; reduced cost membership is available for students.
Critical reading, note-taking and question writing will require ~1–2 hours. Your instructor will introduce the Questions-Reaction-Summary (QRS) method for guided reading of primary literature articles.
On your own, write a brief (< 200 word) summary and 3–5 questions about your article for discussion with your peers. Unit 1 QRS organizer (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 25kB Aug27 14) can be used to help you organize their response to the reading. The QRS Assignment and Rubric (Acrobat (PDF) 98kB Feb21 13) will be used to evaluate your summary and questions.
The culminating session for this unit is a combination of small group and whole class discussions of how geoscience methods are similar to and different from the stereotypical scientific method (or from the methods of other scientific disciplines).
In your small group, share your prepared questions to clarify/summarize the main points.
As a whole class, attempt to synthesize the main ideas of the article.
In your original table group, generate an outline for a short synthesis paper summarizing your position on the question: "How can you modify that classic (stereotypical) scientific method to be more inclusive of what all scientists do, including geoscientists?" The composition of the paper itself will be individual. The Unit 1 Essay Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 24kB Aug27 14) will be used to evaluate the essay.