History and Nature of Science

Jeff Thomas, Physics and Earth Science, Central Connecticut State University


This course examines the development of science, mathematics, and technology in order to understand our natural world. Specifically, this course focuses on the nature of scientific knowledge that is created through empirical, theoretical, and practical applications.

Course Type: Upper Level
Course Size:

Course Format:
Small-group seminar

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs

Course Context:

This course, the History and Nature of Science, is a required course for all science education majors (excluding MAT students). The prerequisite for the course is for students to complete a minimum of three science courses (3 credits or more/course).

Course Content:

Students in this course are secondary science majors from all four science disciplines (biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics). Students are required to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of various methods of inquiry. To meet this goal, we complete several geoscience-oriented activities. Methods are divided into two categories—deductive (e.g. experimental) and inductive (e.g. spatial, temporal, systems). For instance, students investigate factors that affect the rate of UV absorption (deductive) and students classify plate boundaries based on relevant data (e.g. earthquakes). The latter is based on Dale sawyer's Discovering Plate Boundaries.

Course Goals:

The main objectives of this course are:
  1. describe the historical development of science and how the development of science is related to the cultural, economic, and political development of our society;
  2. describe the primary tenets, assumptions, goals, and values of scientific inquiry and how it is different from other ways of knowing the world (e.g. pseudoscience);
  3. demonstrate an understanding of the interrelationships among various science disciplines and the different methods of doing science.
  4. relate how science and technology has impacted one another as both have evolved over time;
  5. describe controversial issues raised by scientific advancements and discoveries.

Course Features:

The title of this capstone project is "significant scientific discoveries." The goal of this activity is for students to improve their understanding of the nature of science, methods of conducting inquiry, and unifying concepts and process that binds the science disciplines. After they choose a scientist and their discovery, students will create a one-hour presentation which includes:

  1. an inquiry-oriented activity that mirrors the scientist's discovery
  2. a short presentation of the scientist and their discovery

    After the presentation, students will write:

  3. a paper that compares your scientist and discovery with another presentation in order to compare and contrast different methods of inquiry.

Course Philosophy:

The instructional philosophy of this course is constructivist. The 5E inquiry model was the strategy used to organize and scaffold the course. Students first elicit their understandings of inquiry (engage), explore these methods by conducting various geoscience-related activities (explore), relate these activities with suggested articles (explain), conduct their own inquiry-oriented presentations (elaborate), and assess how their attitudes and knowledge has changed over the course (evaluate). The geoscience-oriented activities are implemented primarily because of the instructor's content expertise. However, students can choose any content (e.g. biology) for their capstone project.


  • Nature of Science Survey (pre- and post)
  • Methods of Inquiry essay (pre- and post)
  • Completion of in-class geoscience-related activities that address inductive and deductive methods
  • Capstone project (including essay that compares and contrast two methods of inquiry)


History and Nature of Science (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 30kB May9 12)

References and Notes: