The following tips grow out of the research literature just reviewed and the guidance of teacher advisors to Understanding Science.
- Be explicit about how your classroom activities and content relate to the nature and process of science.
- Model the behaviors, strategies, and scientific language that you want from your students.
- Incorporate the nature and process of science throughout the year. Re-emphasize the same ideas in multiple contexts so that students can see the general applicability of these ideas to all of science.
- Use activities in which students apply/develop scientific processes themselves (i.e., How do I do science?) and activities in which students examine the workings of science from the outside in (i.e., How do they do science?). And remember that these activities can be extended to emphasize the process of science by having students chart their own path on the flowchart using paper and pencil or by using our interactive journaling tool: the How Science Works web interactive.
- Use examples from the history of science. Incorporate popular accounts of scientific discoveries that emphasize the nature and process of science.
- Wherever possible, get students to ask and answer “how do we know this?”
- Be aware of common misconceptions about the nature and process of science. Put students in situations that challenge those misconceptions. Remember to be explicit!
- Begin the year with a discussion of what is and is not science and what characteristics make science different from other human endeavors. Revisit these topics in multiple contexts throughout the year.
- Apply the Science Checklist to different situations throughout the year.
- Apply the Science Flowchart to different situations throughout the year.
- Take advantage of current research and breakthroughs (especially when they challenge something in your textbook) and bring this material into your classroom.
- Use assessments to monitor students’ understandings of the nature and process of science.
- Look for collaborative opportunities with local research institutions that might provide structures for interactions between your students and scientists.
- Use photos and video to emphasize that science is done in many different ways by many different people.
During student investigations:
- Avoid overemphasizing the term experiment. Many scientific tests do not take the form of experiments. When discussing evidence garnered through these other sorts of scientific tests, be sure to make this explicit.
- Take advantage of labs and activities that “go wrong.” De-emphasize the idea of the “right” answer and allow students to wrestle with ambiguity.
- Instead of giving the “right” answer, direct student skepticism back at methods, evidence, and interpretation.
- Instead of cookbook labs, incorporate student-designed investigations with available lab equipment.
- Have students present their evidence and interpretation to each other and come to a consensus about the outcome of the lab or activity.
- Have students keep a journal with personal reflections on their learning and on how knowledge is built.
- Consider varying the format of labs and lab reports. Not all scientific investigations begin with a hypothesis and neither should all student labs. Some labs may be appropriately designed as more exploratory studies, perhaps resulting in hypotheses for further investigation. Also, remember to contrast the process that students use in their investigations with the way in which lab reports are typically written up. Using the standard format for lab reports without helping students understand the difference between the process of science and how findings are formally presented can encourage student misconceptions.
- Remember, be explicit about how student investigations relate to the nature and process of science.