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Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry by National Institute of Health. - HTML preview

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Introduction to Doing Science:

The Process of Scientific Inquiry

We are living in a time when science and

flexible. Different types of questions require

technology play an increasingly important role

different types of investigations. Moreover,

in our everyday lives. By almost any measure,

there is more than one way to answer a

the pace of change is staggering. Recent

question. Although students may associate

inventions and new technologies are having

science with experimentation, science

profound effects on our economic, political,

also uses observations, surveys, and other

and social systems. The past 30 years have

nonexperimental approaches.

seen the

• advent of recombinant DNA technology,

The second objective is to provide students

• development of in vitro fertilization

with an opportunity to practice and refine


their critical-thinking skills. Such abilities are

• cloning of mammals,

important, not just for scientific pursuits, but

• creation of the Internet,

for making decisions in everyday life. Our fast-

• birth of nanotechnology, and

changing world requires today’s youth to be

• mass introduction of fax machines, cell

life-long learners. They must be able to evaluate

phones, and personal computers.

information from a variety of sources and

assess its usefulness. They need to discriminate

These advances have helped improve the lives

between objective science and pseudoscience.

of many, but they also raise ethical, legal,

Students must be able to establish causal

and social questions. If society is to reap the

relationships and distinguish them from mere

benefits of science while minimizing potential


negative effects, then it is important for the

public to have the ability to make informed,

The third objective is to convey to students

objective decisions regarding the applications

the purpose of scientific research. Ongoing

of science and technology. This argues for

research affects how we understand the

educating the public about the scientific

world around us and provides a foundation

process and how to distinguish science from

for improving our choices about personal


health and the health of our community. In

this module, students participate in a virtual

What Are the Objectives of the Module?

investigation that gives them experience with

Doing Science: The Process of Scientific

the major aspects of scientific inquiry. The

Inquiry has four objectives. The first is to

lessons encourage students to think about

help students understand the basic aspects

the relationships among knowledge, choice,

of scientific inquiry. Science proceeds by a

behavior, and human health in this way:

continuous, incremental process that involves

generating hypotheses, collecting evidence,

Knowledge (what is known and not known)

testing hypotheses, and reaching evidence-

+ Choice = Power

based conclusions. Rather than involving

one particular method, scientific inquiry is

Power + Behavior = Enhanced Human Health


Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry

The final objective of this module is to

In Designing Professional Development for

encourage students to think in terms of these

Teachers of Science and Mathematics, Loucks-

relationships now and as they grow older.

Horsley et al. write that supplements such

as this one “offer a window through which

Why Teach the Module?

teachers get a glimpse of what new teaching

Middle school life science classes offer an ideal

strategies look like in action.”7 By experiencing

setting for integrating many areas of student

a short-term unit, teachers can “change how

interest. In this module, students participate in

they think about teaching and embrace new

activities that integrate inquiry science, human

approaches that stimulate students to problem-

health, and mathematics, and interweave

solve, reason, investigate, and construct their

science, technology, and society. The real-life

own meaning for the content.” The use of

context of the module’s classroom lessons is

this kind of supplemental unit can encourage

engaging, and the knowledge gained can be

reflection and discussion and stimulate

applied immediately to students’ lives.

teachers to improve their practices by focusing

on student learning through inquiry.

What’s in It for the Teacher?

Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry

The following table correlates topics often

meets many of the criteria by which teachers

included in science curricula with the major

and their programs are assessed:

concepts presented in this module. This

• The module is standards based and

information is presented to help you make

meets science content, teaching, and

decisions about incorporating this material into

assessment standards as expressed in the

your curriculum.

National Science Education Standards. It

pays particular attention to the standards

Correlation of Doing Science: The

that describe what students should know

Process of Scientific Inquiry to Middle

and be able to do with respect to scientific

School Science Topics

inquiry. Where appropriate, we use a

Lesson Lesson Lesson Lesson

standards icon to make connections to the






standards explicit.

Populations and

• It is an integrated module, drawing most


heavily from the subjects of science, social

science, mathematics, and health.

The nature of

• The module has a Web-based technology


component, which includes interactive

Natural hazards

graphics and video clips.

Human health

• The module includes built-in assessment

✓ ✓

and medicine

tools, which are noted in each of the

lessons with an assessment icon.


of science,

In addition, the module provides a means for

technology, and

professional development. Teachers can engage


in new and different teaching practices such

as those described in this module without

completely overhauling their entire program.


Implementing the Module

The four lessons of this module are designed to

this investigation, students gain experience

be taught in sequence over six to eight days (as

with the major aspects of scientific inquiry

a supplement to the standard curriculum) or

and critical thinking (Lesson 3, Conducting a

as individual lessons that support and enhance

Scientific Investigation). Students then reflect

your treatment of specific concepts in middle

on what they have learned about the process of

school science. This section offers general

scientific inquiry. Continuing in their roles as

suggestions about using these materials in the

members of the community health department,

classroom. You will find specific suggestions in

students analyze data and prepare investigative

the procedures provided for each lesson.

reports. They also evaluate reports prepared by

others (Lesson 4, Pulling It All Together). The

What Are the Goals of the Module?

table on page 4 illustrates the scientific content

Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry

and conceptual flow of the four lessons.

helps students achieve four major goals

associated with scientific literacy:

How Does the Module Correlate with the

• to understand a set of basic elements

National Science Education Standards?

related to the process of scientific inquiry,

Doing Science: The Process of

• to experience the process of scientific

Scientific Inquiry supports teachers

inquiry and develop an enhanced

in their efforts to reform science

understanding of the nature and methods

education in the spirit of the

of science,

National Academy of Sciences’ 1996 National

• to hone critical-thinking skills, and

Science Education Standards (NSES). The

• to recognize the role of science in society

content is explicitly standards based. Each

and the relationship between basic science

time a standard is addressed in a lesson, an

and human health.

icon appears in the margin and the applicable

standard is identified. The table on page 5 lists

What Are the Science Concepts and How

the specific content standards that this module

Are They Connected?


The lessons are organized into a conceptual

framework that allows students to move

Teaching Standards

from what they already know about scientific

The suggested teaching strategies in all of the

inquiry, or think they know, to gaining a

lessons support you as you work to meet the

more complete and accurate perspective on

teaching standards outlined in the National

the nature of scientific inquiry. Students

Science Education Standards. This module

model the process of scientific inquiry using

helps teachers of science plan an inquiry-

a paper-cube activity (Lesson 1, Inquiring

based science program by providing short-

Minds). They then explore questions and what

term objectives for students. It also includes

distinguishes those questions that can be tested

planning tools such as the Science Content and

by a scientific investigation from those that

Conceptual Flow of the Lessons table and the

cannot (Lesson 2, Working with Questions).

Suggested Timeline for teaching the module.

Students then participate in a computer-

You can use this module to update your

based scientific investigation as members of

curriculum in response to students’ interest.

a fictitious community health department. In

The focus on active, collaborative, and inquiry-


Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry

Science Content and Conceptual Flow of the Lessons

Lesson and Learning Focus*

Topics Covered and Major Concepts

1: Inquiring Minds

Scientists learn about the natural world through

scientific inquiry.

Engage: Students become engaged in

• Scientists ask questions that can be answered

the process of scientific inquiry.

through investigations.

• Scientists design and carry out investigations.

• Scientists think logically to make relationships

between evidence and explanations.

• Scientists communicate procedures and explanations.

2: Working with Questions

Scientists ask questions that can be answered

through investigations.

Explore: Students consider what makes

• Testable questions are not answered by personal

questions scientifically testable. Students

opinions or belief in the supernatural.

gain a common set of experiences

• Testable questions are answered by collecting evidence

upon which to begin building their

and developing explanations based on that evidence.


3: Conducting a Scientific

Scientific explanations emphasize evidence.


• Scientists think critically about the types of evidence

that should be collected.

Explain/Elaborate: Students conduct

an investigation in the context of a

Scientists analyze the results of their investigations

community health department.

to produce scientifically acceptable explanations.

They propose possible sources of the

health problem and describe how they

might confirm or refute these possibilities.

4: Pulling It All Together

Scientific inquiry is a process of discovery.

• It begins with a testable question.

Evaluate: Students deepen their

• Scientific investigations involve collecting evidence.

understanding of scientific inquiry by

• Explanations are evidence based.

performing their own investigation and

• Scientists communicate their results to their peers.

evaluating one performed by another


* See How Does the 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-Based Learning? on page 6.

based learning in the lessons helps support

backgrounds and learning styles. The module is

the development of student understanding and

fully annotated, with suggestions for how you

nurtures a community of science learners.

can encourage and model the skills of scientific

inquiry and foster curiosity, openness to new

The structure of the lessons enables you

ideas and data, and skepticism.

to guide and facilitate learning. All the

activities encourage and support student

Assessment Standards

inquiry, promote discourse among students,

You can engage in ongoing assessment of your

and challenge students to accept and share

instruction and student learning using the

responsibility for their learning. The use of

assessment components. The assessment tasks

the 5E Instructional Model, combined with

are authentic; they are similar to tasks that

active, collaborative learning, allows you to

students will engage in outside the classroom

respond effectively to students with diverse

or to practices in which scientists participate.


Content Standards: Grades 5–8

Standard A: Science as Inquiry

Correlation to Doing

As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should

Science: The Process


of Scientific Inquiry

Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.

All lessons

Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and

Lessons 1, 3, 4

interpret data.

Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using Lessons 1, 3, 4


Think critically and logically to make the relationships between Lessons 1, 3, 4

evidence and explanations.

Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions.

Lessons 1, 3, 4

Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.

Lessons 1, 3, 4

Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.

Lessons 3, 4

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

All lessons

involve experiments; some involve seeking more information; some

involve discovery of new objects; and some involve making models.

Mathematics is important in all aspects of scientific inquiry.

Lessons 3, 4

Standard C: Life Science

As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should

develop an understanding of

Structure and function in living systems

Some diseases are the result of intrinsic failures of the system. Others Lessons 3, 4

are the result of damage by infection by other organisms.

Populations and ecosystems

Food webs identify the relationships among producers, consumers, Lesson 1

and decomposers in an ecosystem.

Standard E: Science and Technology

As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should


Understandings about science and technology

Science and technology are reciprocal. Science helps drive technology.

Technology is essential to science, because it provides instruments and

Lessons 2, 3, 4

techniques that enable observations of objects and phenomena that

are otherwise unobservable.

Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should

develop an understanding of

Personal health

The potential for accidents and the existence of hazards imposes the need for injury prevention. Safe living involves the development and use of

Lessons 3, 4

safety precautions and the recognition of risk in personal decisions.


Implementing the Module

Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry

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

Lessons 3, 4

consequences. The results are used to determine the options for

reducing or eliminating risks.

Important personal and social decisions are made based on perceptions Lesson 3

of benefits and risks.

Science and technology in society

Technology influences society through its products and processes.

Technology influences the quality of life and the ways people act and

Lesson 2


Standard G: History and Nature of Science

As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should

develop an understanding of

Science as a human endeavor

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

All lessons

the work of science relies on basic human qualities, such as reasoning,

insight, energy, skills, and creativity.

Nature of science

Scientists formulate and test their explanations of nature using All lessons

observation, experiments, and theoretical and mathematical models.

Annotations will guide you to these assessment

that involve students in direct experimentation

opportunities and provide answers to questions

and those in which students develop

that will help you analyze student feedback.

explanations through critical and logical


How Does the 5E Instructional

Model Promote Active, Collaborative,

The viewpoint that students are active thinkers

Inquiry-Based Learning?

who construct their own understanding from

Because learning does not occur by way of

interactions with phenomena, the environment,

passive absorption, the lessons in this module

and other individuals is based on the theory

promote active learning. Students are involved

of constructivism. A constructivist view of

in more than listening and reading. They are

learning recognizes that students need time to

developing skills, analyzing and evaluating

• express their current thinking;

evidence, experiencing and discussing,

• interact with objects, organisms,

and talking to their peers about their own

substances, and equipment to develop a

understanding. Students work collaboratively

range of experiences on which to base their

with others to solve problems and plan


investigations. Many students find that they

• reflect on their thinking by writing and