The Science of Healthy Behaviors
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National Institute of Nursing Research
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The Science of Healthy Behaviors

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Teacher's Guide

Implementing the Module

The five lessons in this module are designed to be taught in sequence for approximately eight days as a replacement for a part of the standard curriculum in middle school life science. The following pages offer general suggestions about using these materials in the classroom; you will find specific suggestions in the procedures provided for each lesson.

What Are the Goals of the Module?

The Science of Healthy Behaviors is designed to help students reach these major goals associated with scientific literacy:

What Are the Science Concepts and How Are They Connected?

The lessons are organized into a conceptual framework that allows students to move from what they already know about behavior, some of which may be incorrect, to a scientific perspective on behavior and its importance to science and to their lives. Students begin by developing their own definition of behavior through observations of human and animal behavior (Defining Behavior). Students then explore the relationship between influences on behavior and reasons for behavior (Influences on Behavior).

An investigation of factors influencing physical activity introduces students to the survey as a tool of behavioral scientists (Tools of Social and Behavioral Science: The Survey). In Behavioral Specialists at Work: The Healthcare Setting, students role-play behavioral scientists in a hospital scenario to investigate the relationships between behavior and health. They also develop a behavioral modification plan to help a fictitious character lower his risk of heart disease.

The final lesson, Behavior Specialists in the Healthcare Setting…Again, allows students to consider what they have learned in previous lessons. They investigate in detail the many influences on a person’s behavior and relate this to the reasons underlying behaviors. The following two tables illustrate the science content and conceptual flow of the classroom lessons and activities.

Science Content of the Lessons
Lesson Science Content
Lesson 1 What is behavior?; observation as a scientific tool
Lesson 2 Influences on behavior
Lesson 3 Using a survey as a scientific tool
Lesson 4 Relationship of behavior to health; changing behaviors
Lesson 5 Pulling it together: changing behavior as it relates to influences on and reasons for behavior
Conceptual Flow of the Lessons
Lesson Learning Focus* Major Concepts
Lesson 1
Defining Behavior
Behavior is any activity in which an organism engages, and it can be innate or learned. Behavior is studied by behavioral and social scientists. Scientists use a variety of tools to study behaviors, including observation and animal models. Some studies occur in the laboratory while others take place in natural settings. Some studies examine behavior in individuals while others collect information about behavior of groups. Understanding behavior is important because many behaviors have long- and short-term impacts on health. Improving health requires an understanding of what behaviors people engage in, why they engage in them, and what the health consequences of those behaviors are.
Lesson 2
Influences on Behavior
Individuals behave in certain ways. Reasons for behavior originate in various influences. These influences can be classified into general categories, such as biological, personal, social, or environmental. Individuals can modify some, but not all, of these influences.
Lesson 3
Tools of Social and Behavioral Science: The Survey
Surveys are important tools for social and behavioral scientists. Surveys provide quantifiable information about behaviors and behavior trends and allow scientists to study the relationships among different influences and behaviors. Survey questions must be designed carefully to ask very specific questions. Sample size and a representative sample are critical to generating useful data from a survey. Different influences can affect a person’s physical activity levels.
Lesson 4
Behavioral Specialists at Work: The Healthcare Setting
Elaborate Health is influenced by factors, some of which we cannot modify (such as genetics) and some of which we can control (such as behaviors). Behaviors have both positive and negative outcomes on health. Behaviors may have both short and long-term consequences for health. Behaviors may be modified to affect health positively.
Lesson 5
Behavioral Specialists in the Healthcare Setting … Again
Evaluate Individuals behave in certain ways. Reasons for behavior originate in various influences. Asking well-designed, specific questions is an important tool of scientists who study human behavior. Modifying behavior may be difficult and depends on complex relationships among many influences in a person’s life.
*See How Does the BSCS 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-Based Learning?

How Does the Module Correlate with the National Science Education Standards?

The Science of Healthy Behaviors supports teachers in their efforts to reform science education in the spirit of the National Research Council’s 1996 National Science Education Standards (NSES).19 The content of the module is explicitly standards based. The following chart lists the specific content standards that this module addresses.

Content Standards: Grades 5–8
NSES Content Standard Correlation to The Science of Healthy Behaviors
Standard A: As a result of activities in grades 5–8, all students should develop
Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry  
  • Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation.
Lessons 2, 3, 4
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.
Lessons 2, 3, 4
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions.
Lessons 2, 3, 4
  • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.
Lessons 2, 3, 4
  • Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Lesson 3
Understandings about scientific inquiry  
  • Different kinds of questions suggest different kinds of scientific investigations. Some investigations involve observing and describing objects, organisms, or events; some involve collecting specimens; some involve experiments; some involve seeking more information; some involve discovery of new objects; and some involve making models.
Lessons 1, 2, 3
  • Different scientific domains employ different methods, core theories, and standards to advance scientific knowledge and understanding.
Lessons 1, 2, 3
  • Mathematics is important in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Lesson 3
  • Asking questions and querying other scientists’ explanations is part of scientific inquiry.
Lessons 2, 3, 4
Standard C: As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should develop understanding of
Structure and function in living systems  
  • Disease is a breakdown in structures or functions of an organism.
Lesson 4
Reproduction and heredity  
  • The characteristics of an organism can be described in terms of a combination of traits. Some are inherited, and others result from interactions with the environment.
Lessons 2, 4
Regulation and behavior  
  • All organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions while living in a constantly changing environment.
Lessons 1, 2, 4
  • Behavior is one kind of response an organism can make to an internal or environmental stimulus. Behavioral response is a set of actions determined in part by heredity and in part from experience.
All lessons
  • An organism’s behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment. How a species moves, obtains food, reproduces, and responds to danger is based on the species’ evolutionary history.
Lessons 1, 2
Content Standard F: As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should develop understanding of
Personal health  
  • Regular exercise is important to the maintenance and improvement of health.
Lessons 3, 4, 5
  • The use of tobacco increases the risk of illness. Students should understand the influence of short-term social and psychological factors that lead to tobacco use, and the possible long-term detrimental effects of smoking and chewing tobacco.
Lessons 4, 5
Risks and benefits  
  • Risk analysis considers the type of hazard and estimates the number of people who might be exposed and the number likely to suffer consequences. The results are used to determine the options for reducing or eliminating risks.
Lesson 3
  • Students should understand the risks associated with natural hazards (fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions), chemical hazards (pollutants in air, water, soil, and food), biological hazards (pollen, viruses, bacterial, and parasites), social hazards (occupational safety and transportation), and personal hazards (smoking, dieting, and drinking).
Lessons 4, 5
  • Individuals can use a systematic approach to thinking critically about risks and benefits.
Lessons 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Important personal and social decisions are made based on perceptions of benefits and risks.
Lesson 2
  • Science influences society through its knowledge and world views.
Lessons 1, 4, 5
Content Standard G: As a result of activities in grades 58, all students should develop understanding of
Science as a human endeavor  
  • Women and men of various social and ethnic backgrounds—and with diverse interests, talents, qualities, and motivations—engage in the activities of science, engineering, and related fields such as the health professions. Some scientists work in teams and some work alone, but all communicate extensively with others.
Lessons 1, 4, 5
  • Science requires different abilities, depending on such factors as the field of study and type of inquiry. Science is very much a human endeavor, and the work of science relies on basic human qualities, such as reasoning, insight, energy, skills, and creativity.
Lessons 1, 2, 3
  • Science also relies on scientific habits of mind, such as intellectual honesty, tolerance of ambiguity, skepticism, and openness to new ideas.
Lessons 1, 2, 4, 5
Nature of science  
  • Scientists formulate and test their explanations of nature using observation, experiments, and theoretical and mathematical models.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
  • It is part of scientific inquiry to evaluate the results of scientific investigations, experiments, observations, theoretical models, and the explanations proposed by other scientists. Evaluation includes reviewing the experimental procedures, examining the evidence, identifying faulty reasoning, pointing out statements that go beyond the evidence, and suggesting alternative explanations for the same observations.
Lessons 2, 3, 4

Teaching Standards

The suggested teaching strategies in all the lessons support you as you work to meet the teaching standards outlined in the National Science Education Standards. This module helps teachers of science plan an inquiry-based science program by providing short-term objectives for students. It also includes planning tools such as the Conceptual Flow of the Lessons chart and the Suggested Timeline for teaching the module. You can use this module to update your curriculum in response to your students’ interest in this topic. The focus on active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning in the lessons helps teachers support the development of student understanding and nurture a community of science learners.

The structure of the lessons in this module enables teachers to guide and facilitate learning. All the activities encourage and support student inquiry, promote discourse among students, and challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their learning. Using the BSCS 5E Instructional Model, combined with active, collaborative learning, allows teachers to respond effectively to the diversity of student backgrounds and learning styles. The module is fully annotated, with suggestions for how teachers can encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry, as well as foster the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize science.

Assessment Standards

You can engage in ongoing assessment of your teaching and of student learning using the variety of assessment components embedded within the module’s structure. The assessment tasks are authentic: they are similar in form to tasks that students will encounter outside the classroom or in which scientists participate. Annotations guide you to these opportunities for assessment and provide answers to questions that can help you analyze student feedback.

How Does the BSCS 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-Based Learning?

Because learning does not occur through a process of passive absorption, the lessons in this module promote active learning. Students are involved in more than listening and reading. They are developing skills, analyzing and evaluating evidence, experiencing and discussing, and talking to their peers about their own understanding. Students work collaboratively with others to solve problems and plan investigations. Many students find that they learn better when they work with others in a collaborative environment than when they work alone in a competitive environment. When all this active, collaborative learning is directed toward inquiry science, students succeed in making their own discoveries. They ask questions, observe, analyze, explain, draw conclusions, and ask new questions. These inquiry-based experiences include both those that involve students in direct experimentation and those in which students develop explanations through critical and logical thinking.

This viewpoint that students are active thinkers who construct their own understanding out of interactions with phenomena, the environment, and other individuals is based on the theory of constructivism. A constructivist view of learning recognizes that students need time to

This module provides a built-in structure for creating a constructivist classroom: the BSCS 5E Instructional Model. This model sequences the learning experiences so that students have the opportunity to construct their understanding of a concept over time. The model leads students through five phases of learning that are easily described using five words that begin with the letter E: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. The following paragraphs summarize how the five Es are implemented across the lessons in this module.


Students come to learning situations with prior knowledge. This knowledge may or may not be congruent with the concepts presented in this module. The Engage lesson provides the opportunity for teachers to find out what students already know or what they think they know about the topic and concepts to be developed. It also gives each learner the opportunity to consider what his or her current ideas and thoughts about the topic are. The Engage phase should also capture students’ interest and make them curious about the topic and concepts.

The Engage phase of this module, found in Lesson 1, Defining Behavior, is designed to


In the Explore phase of the module—Lesson 1, Defining Behavior; Lesson 2, Influences on Behavior; and Lesson 3, Tools of Social and Behavioral Science: The Survey—students investigate behavioral and social science and behaviors by using the behavioral and social science tools of observation and surveys and by exploring factors that influence behaviors. These lessons require students to make observations, analyze familiar situations from a scientific viewpoint, evaluate and interpret data, and draw conclusions. Students


The Explain phase provides opportunities for students to connect their previous experiences and to begin to make conceptual sense of the main ideas of the module. This stage also allows for the introduction of formal language, scientific terms, and content information that might make students’ previous experiences easier to describe and explain.

In the Explain lessons in this module—Lesson 1, Defining Behavior; Lesson 2, Influences on Behavior; and Lesson 3, Tools of Social and Behavioral Science: The Survey—students


In Elaborate lessons, students apply or extend the concepts in new situations and relate their previous experiences to new ones. In the Elaborate lesson in this module, Lesson 4, Behavioral Specialists at Work: The Healthcare Setting, students make conceptual connections between new and former experiences. They draw upon their knowledge about behavioral science and behaviors to investigate factors that affect behaviors with important health outcomes. In this lesson, students


The Evaluate lesson is the final stage of the Instructional Model, but it provides only a snapshot of what the students understand and how far they have come from where they began. In reality, the evaluation of students’ conceptual understanding and ability to use skills begins with the Engage lesson and continues throughout each stage of the model, as described in the following section. Combined with the students’ written work and performance of tasks throughout the module, however, the Evaluate lesson can serve as a summative assessment of what students know and can do.

The Evaluate lesson in this module, Lesson 5, Behavioral Specialists in the Healthcare Setting…Again, gives students the opportunity to

To review the relationship of the 5E Instructional Model to the concepts presented in the module, see the Conceptual Flow of the Lessons chart.

When a teacher uses the 5E Instructional Model, he or she engages in practices that are very different from those of a traditional teacher. In response, students also participate in their learning in ways that are different from those seen in a traditional classroom. The charts What the Teacher Does and What the Students Do outline these differences.

What the Teacher Does
Stage That is consistent with the BSCS 5E Instructional Model That is inconsistent with the BSCS 5E Instructional Model
  • Piques students’ curiosity and generates interest
  • Determines students’ current understanding (prior knowledge) of a concept or idea
  • Invites students to express what they think
  • Invites students to raise their own questions
  • Introduces vocabulary
  • Explains concepts
  • Provides definitions and answers
  • Provides closure
  • Discourages students’ ideas and questions
  • Encourages student-to-student interaction
  • Observes and listens to the students as they interact
  • Asks probing questions to help students make sense of their experiences
  • Provides time for students to puzzle through problems
  • Provides answers
  • Proceeds too rapidly for students to make sense of their experiences
  • Provides closure
  • Tells students that they are wrong
  • Gives information and facts that solve the problem
  • Leads students step-by-step to a solution
  • Encourages students to use their common experiences and data from the Engage and Explore lessons to develop explanations
  • Asks questions that help students express understanding and explanations
  • Requests justification (evidence) for students’ explanations
  • Provides time for students to compare their ideas with those of others and perhaps to revise their thinking
  • Introduces terminology and alternative explanations after students express their ideas
  • Neglects to solicit students’ explanations
  • Ignores data and information students gathered from previous lessons
  • Dismisses students’ ideas
  • Accepts explanations that are not supported by evidence
  • Introduces unrelated concepts or skills
  • Focuses students’ attention on conceptual connections between new and former experiences
  • Encourages students to use what they have learned to explain a new event or idea
  • Reinforces students’ use of scientific terms and descriptions previously introduced
  • Asks questions that help students draw reasonable conclusions from evidence and data
  • Neglects to help students connect new and former experiences
  • Provides definitive answers
  • Tells students that they are wrong
  • Leads students step-by-step to a solution
  • Observes and records as students demonstrate their understanding of concepts and performance of skills
  • Provides time for students to compare their ideas with those of others and perhaps to revise their thinking
  • Interviews students to assess their developing understanding
  • Encourages students to assess their own progress
  • Tests vocabulary words, terms, and isolated facts
  • Introduces new ideas or concepts
  • Creates ambiguity
  • Promotes open-ended discussion unrelated to the concept or skill

What the Students Do
Stage That is consistent with the BSCS 5E Instructional Model That is inconsistent with the BSCS 5E Instructional Model
  • Become interested in and curious about the concept or topic
  • Express current understanding of a concept or idea
  • Raise questions such as, What do I already know about this? What do I want to know about this? How could I find out?
  • Ask for the “right” answer
  • Offer the “right” answer
  • Insist on answers or explanations
  • Seek closure
  • “Mess around” with materials and ideas
  • Conduct investigations in which they observe, describe, and record data
  • Try different ways to solve a problem or answer a question
  • Acquire a common set of experiences so they can compare results and ideas
  • Compare their ideas with those of others
  • Let others do the thinking and exploring (passive involvement)
  • Work quietly with little or no interaction with others (only appropriate when exploring ideas or feelings)
  • Stop with one solution
  • Demand or seek closure
  • Explain concepts and ideas in their own words
  • Base their explanations on evidence acquired during previous investigations
  • Record their ideas and current understanding
  • Reflect on and perhaps revise their ideas
  • Express their ideas using appropriate scientific language
  • Compare their ideas with what scientists know and understand
  • Propose explanations from “thin air” with no relationship to previous experiences
  • Bring up irrelevant experiences and examples
  • Accept explanations without justification
  • Ignore or dismiss other plausible explanations
  • Propose explanations without evidence to support their ideas
  • Make conceptual connections between new and former experiences
  • Use what they have learned to explain a new object, event, organism, or idea
  • Use scientific terms and descriptions
  • Draw reasonable conclusions from evidence and data
  • Communicate their understanding to others
  • Ignore previous information or evidence
  • Draw conclusions from “thin air”
  • Use terminology inappropriately and without understanding
  • Demonstrate what they understand about the concept(s) and how well they can implement a skill
  • Compare their current thinking with that of others and perhaps revise their ideas
  • Assess their own progress by comparing their current understanding with their prior knowledge
  • Ask new questions that take them deeper into a concept or topic area
  • Disregard evidence or previously accepted explanations in drawing conclusions
  • Offer only yes-or-no answers or memorized definitions or explanations as answers
  • Fail to express satisfactory explanations in their own words
  • Introduce new, irrelevant topics

How Does the Module Support Ongoing Assessment?

Because teachers will use this module in a variety of ways and at a variety of points in their curriculum, the most appropriate mechanism for assessing student learning is one that occurs informally at various points within the five lessons, rather than just once, formally, at the end of the module. Accordingly, integrated within the lessons are specific assessment components. These embedded assessment opportunities include one or more of the following strategies:

These strategies allow teachers to assess a variety of aspects of the learning process, such as students’ prior knowledge and current understanding, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, level of understanding of new information, communication skills, and ability to synthesize ideas and apply understanding to a new situation.

assessment iconAn assessment icon and an annotation that describes the aspect of learning being assessed appear in the margin beside each step in which embedded assessment occurs.

How Can Controversial Topics Be Handled in the Classroom?

Teachers sometimes feel that the discussion of values is inappropriate in the science classroom or that it detracts from the learning of “real” science. The lessons in this module, however, are based on the conviction that there is much to be gained by involving students in analyzing issues of science, behavior, health, and society. Society expects all citizens to participate in the democratic process, and our educational system must provide opportunities for students to learn to deal with contentious issues with civility, objectivity, and fairness. Likewise, students need to learn that science intersects with life in many ways.

In this module, students have a variety of opportunities to discuss, interpret, and evaluate basic science and health issues, some in light of their values and ethics. As students encounter issues about which they feel strongly, some discussions may become controversial. The degree of controversy will depend on many factors, such as how similar the students are with respect to socioeconomic status, perspectives, value systems, and religious preferences. In addition, the language and attitude of the teacher factor into the flow of ideas and the quality of exchange among the students.

The following guidelines may help teachers facilitate discussions that balance factual information with feelings.

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