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Know your students: Implications for student learning about the nature and process of science

Students in ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades should begin to develop sophistication in their understanding of what science is, how science works, and science as a human and community endeavor. The process of science, which involves observation, exploration, discovery, communication, and application should be supported and deepened through investigations that are meaningful to high school students. The ability to analyze evidence and data should be developed through modeling by teachers and practice by students. In these ways, students can develop their understanding of the relationship between evidence and explanation.

High school students may still have difficulty proposing explanations based on logic and evidence instead of on their prior conceptions of the natural world. Students should be asked to construct explanations based on scientific knowledge and to evaluate their own explanations and the explanations made by scientists.

Appropriate questioning strategies, along with in-class examination and discussion of ideas, can be used to help students develop data analysis skills. Students should be asked to explain the relationship between evidence and scientific ideas and should be asked to explore alternative explanations.

Students in this grade span can build upon the foundation developed in middle school for understanding the similarities, differences, and relationships between science and technology. Learning experiences should include examples of the part science has played in advances in technology and the part technological advances have played in scientific progress, thus supporting the idea that science and technology are dependent upon one another and are influenced by one another's progress.

Historical examples can facilitate students' understandings of science as a human and community endeavor. From these examples, students should learn that individuals and teams of scientists do science, that communication within the scientific community contributes to scientific progress, that scientific progress depends on peer review, and that being a part of the scientific community means abiding by certain standards for scientific behavior that facilitate progress.

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Text provided by Sharon Janulaw, Project Advisory Board, Understanding Science

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