We are living in a time when science and technology play an increasingly important role in our everyday lives. By almost any measure, the pace of change is staggering. Recent inventions and new technologies are having profound effects on our economic, political, and social systems. The past 30 years have seen the
These advances have helped improve the lives of many, but they also raise ethical, legal, and social questions. If society is to reap the benefits of science while minimizing potential negative effects, then it is important for the public to have the ability to make informed, objective decisions regarding the applications of science and technology. This argues for educating the public about the scientific process and how to distinguish science from pseudoscience.
Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry has four objectives. The first is to help students understand the basic aspects of scientific inquiry. Science proceeds by a continuous, incremental process that involves generating hypotheses, collecting evidence, testing hypotheses, and reaching evidence-based conclusions. Rather than involving one particular method, scientific inquiry is flexible. Different types of questions require different types of investigations. Moreover, there is more than one way to answer a question. Although students may associate science with experimentation, science also uses observations, surveys, and other nonexperimental approaches.
The second objective is to provide students with an opportunity to practice and refine their critical-thinking skills. Such abilities are important, not just for scientific pursuits, but for making decisions in everyday life. Our fast-changing world requires today’s youth to be life-long learners. They must be able to evaluate information from a variety of sources and assess its usefulness. They need to discriminate between objective science and pseudoscience. Students must be able to establish causal relationships and distinguish them from mere associations.
The third objective is to convey to students the purpose of scientific research. Ongoing research affects how we understand the world around us and provides a foundation for improving our choices about personal health and the health of our community. In this module, students participate in a virtual investigation that gives them experience with the major aspects of scientific inquiry. The lessons encourage students to think about the relationships among knowledge, choice, behavior, and human health in this way:
Knowledge (what is known and not known) + Choice = Power
Power + Behavior = Enhanced Human Health
The final objective of this module is to encourage students to think in terms of these relationships now and as they grow older.
Middle school life science classes offer an ideal setting for integrating many areas of student interest. In this module, students participate in activities that integrate inquiry science, human health, and mathematics, and interweave science, technology, and society. The real-life context of the module’s classroom lessons is engaging, and the knowledge gained can be applied immediately to students’ lives.
Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry meets many of the criteria by which teachers and their programs are assessed:
In addition, the module provides a means for professional development. Teachers can engage in new and different teaching practices such as those described in this module without completely overhauling their entire program. In Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics, Loucks-Horsley et al. write that supplements such as this one “offer a window through which teachers get a glimpse of what new teaching strategies look like in action.”7 By experiencing a short-term unit, teachers can “change how they think about teaching and embrace new approaches that stimulate students to problem-solve, reason, investigate, and construct their own meaning for the content.” The use of this kind of supplemental unit can encourage reflection and stimulate teachers to improve their practices by focusing on student learning through inquiry.
The following table correlates topics often included in science curricula with the major concepts presented in this module. This information is presented to help you make decisions about incorporating this material into your curriculum.
|Topics||Lesson 1||Lesson 2||Lesson 3||Lesson 4|
|Populations and ecosystems|
|The nature of science|
|Human health and medicine|
|Relationship of science, technology, and society|
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