NOVA recently launched the Cloud Lab—an online interactive that enables authentic student research with scientific data. NOVA Education celebrates the release of this third Lab with a special blog series exploring the importance of Big Data and its implications for STEM education, starting with the following.
Big Data. If you haven’t already heard about it, your hard drive has. We are generating digital information at such a frightening pace that some scientific fields are now dealing with a “data catastrophe”—where more data is being collected than can physically be stored. In 2011, Science magazine explored the issues surrounding this increasingly huge influx of research data in a special edition. From this collection of articles reaching across a breadth of scientific fields, two themes emerged:
- Most scientific disciplines are finding the data deluge to be extremely challenging
- Tremendous opportunities can be realized if we can better organize and access the data. (Source)
It is this second theme of opportunity that I would like to explore through the lens of K-12 formal education and teacher Professional Development in a series of blog postings that I am calling Big Data in the Classroom.
But before I start throwing any facts and figures at you, here is a personal story about what this transition looks like to someone engaged in scientific research.
When I was an undergraduate physics major, I spent 4 nights in 1996 on a mountain in Arizona observing a few individual stars to research their variability. My method involved measuring the rate of incoming photons and graphing the data to generate a light curve for each variable star. Between weather and equipment issues, I was able to gather only a few hours of usable data over the course of four nights—thankfully this was enough to finish my senior research project.
Now, 1996 wasn’t that long ago (at least I like to tell myself that), but if I was doing research in astrophysics today, my methods would look quite different. Thanks to robotic telescopes and a fleet of different satellites, many sky surveys have gathered and stored spectra and images across multiple wavelengths of light, offering researchers large collections of data just waiting to be queried and downloaded. Gone is the image of the astronomer sitting with their eye to a telescope eyepiece. Now, I could simply go to the AAVSO or SDSS sites and download the data I need for my research. More importantly, I would never need to travel to a mountain, wait for good weather, or possibly even operate a telescope or learn a constellation!
But why should you, as a science educator, care about this? “Big Data” represents the fundamental evolution of the tools and methods of scientific research—and the gathering and availability of data is no longer the limiting factor. The Digital Renaissance is here, and in many fields there is now more data than scientists know what to do with. Adding to this volume of new digital data, there are also efforts to bring specimens that are currently deep in storage in natural history museums—called “dark data”— into the digital age, making their secrets available to researchers, to the general public, and to you and your students.
As a science educator, the implications of this sea-change in the very nature of scientific data and information touches everything from you and your practice, to what your students—future scientists or not—will face in their careers and lives. It also informs the very design of your classroom laboratory equipment and lessons, as well as your selection of professional development experiences. In the next blog in this series, I will explore some of the implications of “Big Data” for your classroom instruction.
To further investigate “Big Data” in science, visit:
I was always a dedicated student, but by the end of the school year I was more than ready for a break. Those final weeks were especially difficult—dwindling motivation amidst a hectic schedule of final exams—all with summer on the horizon—was enough to make even the most committed students doubt their resolve.
During one springtime that followed a particularly rough winter in high school, it finally reached about 70 degrees, and my classmates and I asked to go outside for every single class. The 14 year-old version of me was disappointed that this request was only granted once or twice.
As the year comes to a close, it is more challenging than ever to keep students engaged, so NOVA Education has put together a list of our most popular videos and interactives. From DNA to earthquakes to the periodic table, there are resources to capture the attention of every student (even those counting down the seconds until their summer officially begins).
Our “best of” list is below, but if any of your favorite resources are missing, let us know!
1. Create a DNA Fingerprint—Create a DNA fingerprint and then compare it to the fingerprint of seven suspects to nab the perpetrator.
2. NOVA Elements—Like the popular iPad app, in this web version you can explore an interactive periodic table, build atoms, molecules, and elements, and play the “Essential Elements” game to construct elements found in everyday objects.
3. Forensic DNA Analysis—Follow a team of experts as they investigate the forensic evidence from the 1954 murder of Marilyn Sheppard, one of the most famous unsolved crimes in U.S. history.
4. Developing the Periodic Table—Learn how the periodic table developed its current form thanks to chemist Dmitri Mendeleev.
5. Regulating Genes—Study how mutations in different regions of DNA impact the expression of genes, predict how these mutations impact development, and observe how mutations may give rise to any developmental changes.
6. Epigenetics—Learn what the epigenome is, and see how researchers are studying mice as well as humans to determine how gene expression is affected by environmental factors and lifestyle choices.
7. Hunting the Elements Education Collection—Explore our collection of resources based on the “Hunting the Elements” program, which showcases the world of weird, extreme chemistry. The collection includes resources like #4, one of our most popular videos.
8. Earthquake! When Plates Collide—Learn about the concept of plate tectonics and how it causes earthquakes.
9. Mount Pinatubo: Predicting a Volcanic Eruption—See the race to read the signs presented by Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines just before it unleashed one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions of the 20th century.
10. What’s This Stuff?—Learn about the physical, chemical, and mechanical properties of ten mystery materials.
For those of you already working on your lesson plans for next year, these are the perfect resources to build into a curriculum. Try them out and see if our most popular educator resources can help you bring important science concepts to life for your students.
The Harvard Science Center is situated across Cambridge Street to the north of Harvard Yard. If you take the elevator to the 8th floor, go through an unmarked door on the left side, and follow the signs up a few flights of stairs, you’ll find yourself inside a room whose walls are vividly painted with astrological figures, and whose ceiling isn’t a ceiling at all, but rather a mechanical dome. This dome belongs to the Landon T. Clay telescope.
Often, when I was in graduate school, my friends and I would gather on weekday evenings when we should have been studying, and instead we would spend a few hours gazing up at the sky. Many of my favorite memories of Harvard are of nights we spent at the Clay. The person who taught me to use the telescope was a girl named Sarah. It’s thanks to her, at least in part, that I spent so many fantastic hours there. It’s ironic then, that if Sarah and I had attended Harvard at a different time in history, she wouldn’t have even been allowed to operate the observatory’s instruments.
We are capable of measuring the distance to stellar bodies thanks to Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Astronomers today still use classification techniques developed by Annie Jump Cannon. Jocelyn Bell discovered the first quasar. Vera Rubin’s observations led to the theory, now widely accepted, of the existence of dark matter. It is undeniable that these women’s work has been instrumental in giving us a more complete understanding of the universe in which we exist. Unfortunately, it is also true that they’ve received an unsettling lack of recognition for their contributions. Leavitt and Cannon did much of their amazing work while serving as “computers,” women whose job it was to perform the arduous task of sorting, analyzing, and classifying stars seen through the telescopes at the Harvard College Observatory. For this work, they received about 25 cents an hour, less than the Harvard secretarial staff at the time. When Rubin first hypothesized the existence of dark matter, she was largely ignored. And when the Nobel Prize was given out for Jocelyn Bell’s quasar discovery, the award actually went to her male thesis advisor.
Today, of course, women in sciences enjoy more opportunities and credit for their work, but sadly, peek in on many science buildings across the country, and you’ll find far more men than women populating the classrooms and laboratories. Further, the NSF has found, through its research into the professional science and engineering sector, that a pronounced gender gap still exists.
Recognizing this gender gap, many scientists and professional organizations have increasingly been working to support and build community for women in their ranks. One such organization is the American Physical Society, which supports the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP). The annual event includes 6 member institutions (Caltech, Colorado School of Mines, Cornell, U. of Central Florida, UI Urbana-Champaign, and UT Austin) representing various regions of the country. Students are invited to attend, and sponsors pay for attendees’ room and board during the weekend of the event. Those in attendance (mostly female undergrads) get to experience a professional conference firsthand, and are introduced to women of stature in the physics community. The generalization that “science and math are for boys” while “language arts and humanities are for girls” is not in evidence at these conferences. Students leave with a renewed spirit and confidence, knowing that they’re capable of achieving great things in their chosen field, despite what the stereotypes might suggest. With any luck, one, or perhaps several of those students will follow in the footsteps of a Leavitt, a Cannon, a Rubin, or a Bell, and our society will once again have a woman to thank for helping us to understand just that much more about science.
Right now, this moment, as I type, off the top of my head, I can count at least 7 devices in my cubicle that require electrical energy in order to function. That’s not counting our office’s overhead lighting system, the heating, or any of the other building-wide stuff. I’m just talking about things I can pick up. My laptop, its external monitor, my phone, my other phone, the lamps that I use at night to keep my space bright and work-friendly, the coffeemaker that keeps me bright and work-friendly…every one of these things requires electricity, and I use each of them every day, for hours. Often, I use energy without even thinking about it. The bills are paid, and services keep coming, seemingly limitless in supply.
The truth, however, isn’t nearly so idyllic. In the United States, we burn more than 100,000 tons of coal and nearly 800,000 barrels of oil every hour of every day in order to meet our energy needs. Coal and oil are fossil fuels, and they are anything but limitless. What’s more, their conversion into usable energy pollutes our environment and is a contributing factor of climate change. Our energy needs only continue to rise as our society becomes more and more reliant on electrical devices, so one sometimes wonders why technologies like Sweden’s Lillgrund Wind Farm or the SEGS solar arrays in California haven’t been leveraged effectively to solve our energy problems.
With NOVA’s Energy Lab, students learn just how complicated our energy crisis is despite the development of new tools. Through a series of video modules, students hear just how energy is defined, and about how we convert energy from various sources into the kinds of power we need in our daily lives. Students explore the promise of renewable energies like wind and solar, but they also learn about the challenges associated with using those renewables on a larger scale.
Once students have wrapped their minds around the contexts of today’s energy landscape, they jump into the online lab space and learn firsthand how complex the battle for clean renewable energy is. The Energy Lab’s Research Challenge charges students with the task of building efficient new energy infrastructures for cities across the U.S. Students use real scientific data gathered from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to organize systems using renewable sources. There’s added incentive in this lab, as students compete with others to see whose designs can, given cost constraints, produce the most power.
As with all NOVA Labs, the Energy Lab includes an Educator Guide that can help you think of ways to use the Labs as a productive part of your classroom experience. NOVA Education has also produced a webinar to help walk teachers through the online resource.
All in all, the Energy Lab is a great opportunity for students to use tools provided by NOVA to learn through experience about the challenges of energy production and consumption. Far from being a service taken for granted on a daily basis, NOVA’s Energy Lab helps put energy usage in the foreground for future professionals, a space in which it will need to remain if those future professionals are to solve our looming energy challenges.
How do you get from 80s teen star Molly Ringwald to The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers in 6 moves or less? Read on.
In February of 1985, Universal Studios released John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. In the official trailer, one can hear Don LaFontaine, the pre-eminent voiceover artist of the age, say, “A Brain, a Beauty, a Jock, a Rebel, and a Recluse. Before this day is over, they’ll break the rules, bare their souls, take some chances, and touch each other in a way they never dreamed possible!” The piece is considered a hallmark in the teen film genre, and dozens of movies about young people have followed Hughes’ basic formula: at the beginning, the characters’ identities are rigid. By the end, the protagonists realize a degree of flexibility, and they’re all better for it. The end.
The simple truth, however, is that it’s rarely so easy as a Saturday in detention to free anyone from the bounds of social expectation. For younger students, this can result in far-reaching educational consequences. If the stereotypes hold, “the Brain” becomes the scientist, “the Jock” becomes either the professional athlete or the armchair quarterback, and their corresponding identities influence their educational choices throughout life.
Movies are rarely like real life, but stereotypes about what a scientist is “supposed to be” influence young people all the time. Thus, we encounter realities such as the achievement gap between boys and girls in STEM. The stereotype is that science is for boys (because, perhaps, most famous scientists are men), so at about grade 8, gender starts to become a significant predictor of test scores. Girls score, on average, lower than boys on standardized science tests across the country1, and the eventual consequence is a professional scientific community that lacks equal gender representation.
© WGBH Educational Foundation
In the Emmy-nominated second season of the NOVA web series, The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, we follow in the footsteps of John Hughes, and show that identity isn’t so static as it may, at first, appear. NOVA presents 32 new profiles of individuals who pursue their passion for science and engineering while at the same time demonstrating a natural zest for life that the public rarely gets a chance to see. From a lab scientist who spends her weekends as a professional wrestler to a theoretical physicist who loves to figure skate, to a biochemist who has also, in fact, been a beauty queen, Secret Life sheds light on the fact that scientists and engineers, rather than conforming to a single stereotype, are as varied in their interests as the students on a school campus.
Check in soon with Secret Life to find a teacher blog that will provide tips on how to use the series shorts as a part of lesson planning and unit development. We want to encourage teachers to use Secret Life in their classrooms to let students in on all those awesome secrets that make the lives of scientists so rich, diverse, and fulfilling.
Also, remember to be on the lookout for Secret Life’s “Questions from Kids” videos, wherein students get to ask our profiled scientists questions about what it’s really like to live a day in the life of a researcher, teacher, or other science professional.
Use Secret Life in your classrooms, and maybe…just maybe…your students will learn more about themselves than they ever thought possible, and they won’t even need to sit in detention with Molly Ringwald to do it.
In 2011, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) at Grade 8 in science found that only 65% of students performed at or above basic, which denotes just “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade.1” Interim Director of the National Science Teachers Association Gerry Wheeler stated that the scores were “simply unacceptable.2”
While many factors contribute to performance observed in students, a particular factor is student perception of science as encouraged by popular culture. Simply put, science education, as portrayed in popular media, is far from exciting.
Indeed, when Bella and Edward first converse in the movie adaptation of the initial Twilight installment, they’re in a biology class, and have been charged with the task of separating and labeling the phases of mitosis. The teacher, in a valiant attempt to motivate the students to complete the arduous assignment, offers up a gag prize. The class can be heard groaning and booing. In the first draft of the script, Melissa Rosenberg writes about the students’ apathy and the teacher’s disappointment at their lackluster attitudes. By the final cut, the tongue-in-cheek teacher seems resigned to the understanding that he won’t be able to maintain his students’ interest, and that, if anything, they just need to go through the motions. Against this backdrop, the budding chemistry (no pun intended) between the two leads takes center stage. You can almost hear Kristen Stewart’s character thinking, “This science stuff is so boring, but oh, man, is that vampire hot!”
Granted, teen romance is the center of the Twilight story, and biology class is most certainly not, but the fact remains that young people today are rarely presented with reasons to be excited and curious about science rather than apathetic and dismissive of it. One need only look so far as the “scientist stereotype” to see how science, as a practice, is generally perceived. Scientists are painted as eccentric, kooky, and generally too smart for their own good. The Simpsons’ Professor Frink is a highly educated, bespectacled, buck-toothed man who, despite his many efforts, often only makes crises worse. Doctor Emmett Brown, from the film Back to the Future, is another character that embodies the scientist stereotype perfectly. While he is brilliant, he is also eccentric and irresponsible, having squandered his family’s fortune, made deals with crime lords, and invented a time machine that is responsible for the “almost” destruction of the entire universe as 1985 knows it.
Teens’ understanding of real scientists is also sorely lacking. While most young people recognize the name of Albert Einstein, and perhaps even his most famous equation, e=mc2, few understand what it means, and how integral it has been to our understanding of the universe. Rather, when discussing Einstein, people often highlight his social ineptitudes and his “mad scientist” persona, exemplified by the famous photograph of him sticking out his tongue for the camera.
So how do we resolve this issue? How can we encourage a reimagining of how science is perceived and understood by teens such that they are inspired rather than discouraged? Of course, we must strive, as professionals, to make the classroom a productive space, and to ensure that students are getting the most out of that precious little time they spend on applied science learning. But beyond that, we need to make science an accessible discipline. Rather than presenting science as a set of mundane tasks to be completed, we should show science as it truly is: a many-faceted, dynamic, evolving area of human endeavor.
In California, Art and Alfia Wallace have started the Marin Science Seminar, targeting students in the San Rafael school district and using the Science Café model to help answer students’ questions about science and the people who practice it.
In New Mexico, Project Director Michelle Hall is using the Science Café model to work with teens in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Española/Pojoaque, and Los Alamos. The program is specifically intended for, and run by, high schoolers. Young people in each of the four participating cities volunteer their time to help organize and hold events that keep the program exciting and relevant.
One of the salient benefits of these programs is that they provide participating teens the opportunity to experience scientific discourse not colored by stereotypes and character-driven facades. Rather, teens are exposed to real science, real scientists, and are encouraged to explore how science truly relates to daily life. Furthermore, Science Café attendees can also, if they so choose, take up leadership roles. The potential positive outcomes of such participation are so great for young people that it’s a wonder more Science Café teen programs have yet to pop up in the network.
Sciencecafes.org, produced by NOVA scienceNOW and overseen by NOVA Education, hosts a national network of more than 275 Science Cafés. In our capacity as Science Café organizers and supporters, we are often asked how an adult learning model such as that of the Science Café community can be translated to serve effectively for a different demographic set. How complicated it must be, people think, to take something designed for adults and make it accessible to teens. Truly though, it’s not quite so difficult as some might suppose. One of the strengths of the Science Café model is that it is flexible, and can be molded to whatever parameters the organizer deems necessary for the café’s success. Models such as the two series mentioned above are living proof of the potential power of that flexibility.
We want to do our part to encourage the creation and expansion of such programs. If you have interest in starting a program for teens, or if you know of a program near you that could use the support of the Science Café network, or even if you want to share with us a success story having to do with a great café experience, please visit sciencecafes.org, and contact us at email@example.com. We will be happy to provide you with as many resources as possible to help make your program a success.
Even though it was 1:30 in the morning, about 1,000 people gathered in Times Square, August 6th , to stare up at a 53-foot LED screen. Having lived in New York City for many years, I know there are always lots of people in Times Square. And getting them to stop and watch—or even to notice anything—would be a big deal. But here they were, adults and children, their mouths agape and eyes fixed in suspense, looking up at that giant screen. What was it that so captivated them and many others around the globe? Some wild publicity stunt? The trailer for a new blockbuster movie? No. They had gathered to peer into NASA’s Mission Control Center as the rover Curiosity landed on Mars. Reminiscent of the Apollo 11 moon landing, watched by 500 million people worldwide some 43 years ago, these people were here to witness human exploration in real time. Many of these enthralled viewers were kids, given a late-night reprieve to watch history being made on a neighboring body in our solar system. While the grainy black-and-white TV sets may have been replaced by high-definition LED screens, iPads, or even smartphones, the looks on peoples’ faces and their excitement as the car-sized robotic explorer touched down on Mars have not changed over the decades. The scene made me think: How will the story of the Curiosity rover influence this audience and all the others watching worldwide?
I have talked with many NASA scientists and engineers over the past decade, and I have learned that watching events—like the Curiosity landing—played a critical role in inspiring them to pursue their career path. They were engaged by these powerful stories and found ways to get involved and contribute.
Children examining a model of MER at JPL. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Tony Greicius
It’s clear that events like these play an important role in inspiring our youth, which makes it all the more crucial that the story of the event is told well. During the Apollo missions, people observed the Moon through telescopes. Now, we have new technologies that let us learn more about these important events, and also allow us to tell an even more compelling story. Besides the availability of online telescopes controlled via the Internet, the Curiosity rover has its own Twitter account and an interactive 3D rover simulation that allows you to track it online. We can “see” Curiosity land through a computer simulation that looks, for all intents, like a video game of Mars. This is no game, though. Data is being accumulated at record pace. The exciting part is that we can access data like never before, it’s real, and there is a lot of it!
So what do these new methods of storytelling and changing technologies have to do with teaching? Everything. Each lesson unfolds as a story—you determine your message (the concept you wish to teach). Each inquiry or lab is a mission to find a solution or test a hypothesis. And we know from educational research that our students learn socially and would prefer to work in teams, just like those large teams that we see in every NASA Mission Control scene.
Of course, we can’t land a rover in our classrooms every day, but we can tell great stories, give our students a sense of mission, and the pathways to extend their engagement and support their interests. The developments in scientific fields are having an impact on how we can and should be teaching STEM subjects. A quick look at the newly released framework for the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards (to be released in 2013) is a good place to get a sense of what these changes can be.
NOVA Education is also working to innovate our own STEM Resources so that educators can better support these new modes of teaching. Our print resources have shifted to media and digital formats, searchable by topic and aligned with standards on the NOVA Education website. Social media allows us to grow our community and connect directly with you through our Facebook page and Twitter feeds.
The tools might change from decade to decade, yet the core story remains one of science and exploration. This is what NOVA is all about. Next year, we turn 40. Maybe NOVA inspired you along the way, as it did me. I watched it as a child, taught with it for many years in my classroom, and now work with a great team on the mission to become NOVA’s new Education Department. We hope you will join and participate in our community and along the way, find resources and PD that help you in every mission you face in your classroom.
As you begin the new school year, you might like to know what other teachers are using in their classrooms. The following are NOVA Education’s 10 most popular teacher guides. They cover everything from dogs and fish to DNA and the miracle of life. You too might want to try them out!
Listed in order of popularity:
- Create a DNA Fingerprint—Create a DNA fingerprint and then compare it to the fingerprint of seven suspects to nab a perpetrator.
- Dogs and More Dogs—Learn through an evolution card game how selective pressures can affect an organism’s evolution.
- Treasures of the Great Barrier Reef —Classify fish based on their different characteristics.
- Cracking the Code of Life—Explore the process involved in sequencing the human genome by decoding simulated nucleic acid sequences.
- Super Bridge—Explore compression, tension, and torsion by constructing a spaghetti bridge that can hold a coffee-can-and-cardboard roadbed.
- The Missing Link—Collect, analyze, and interpret information about objects in order to classify them in a cladogram.
- Dying to Be Thin—Collect and analyze data about how healthy people are portrayed in the media. Use data to learn more about healthy lifestyles.
- Secrets of Lost Empires: II Pharaoh‘s Obelisk—Discover how levers work by raising a brick with shish kebab skewers.
- Life‘s Greatest Miracle—Identify the effects of maternal consumption of alcohol at various stages of pregnancy.
- World in the Balance—Calculate how long it takes a country’s population to double in size and investigate factors affecting growth rate.
What do you think? Have you used one of these resources before in your classroom? Or are we missing your favorite resource? Let us know!
One teacher on our Facebook page asked, “Could you explain the scientific process? There seems to be tremendous difficulty for my 3rd graders to grasp it.”
So I went to Dr. William McComas, who holds the Parks Family Endowed Professorship in Science Education at the University of Arkansas. When it comes to the history and philosophy of science in science education, he literally wrote the book. At the heart of “doing science” are questions. Here is what Dr. McComas has to say about explaining and exploring the scientific process for younger students:
Perhaps one reason why some students think that the scientific process is hard to grasp is that they believe that scientific thinking is somehow different from other kinds of normal organized thinking. Scientists are not any smarter then other folks but they do have curiosity that inspires them enough to spend time and effort to ask questions about the world.
So, scientists start to ask questions that other folks might not have been so curious about. To answer these questions scientists make observations, do experiments and review the work of others printed in books. They also take notes about what they have discovered and try to put all the information together in a way that makes sense based on the evidence. There isn’t any special order to these tasks. Science use all of these tools to try to answer the question.
Some textbooks include a six or more step process called the scientific method, but scientists don’t all use this same step-by-step technique. Some scientists start to answer the question by going to the library, some start with observations, some start with experiments, some start with hypotheses to guide their thinking and some have a much more open-ended approach. The steps in the “scientific method” are all useful and used by most scientists at least some of the time, but the scientific process is really just the careful, organized way that scientists look for information to try to answer questions. The most important thing to know is that anyone can use the scientific process to solve problems as long as they look at all the evidence and make conclusions carefully when there is enough evidence to do so.
Core Nature of Science Ideas to Inform K-12 Science Teaching
The Tools and Products of Science
- Science produces, demands and relies on empirical evidence
- Knowledge production in science shares many common factors and shared habits of mind, norms, logical thinking and methods such as careful observation and data recording, truthfulness in reporting, etc. The shared aspects of scientific methodology include the following:
- Experiments are not the only route to knowledge
- Science uses both inductive reasoning and hypothetico-deductive testing
- Scientists make observations and produce inferences
- there is no single step-wise scientific method by which all science is done.
- Laws and theories are related but distinct kinds of scientific knowledge. Hypotheses are special, but general kinds of scientific knowledge.
- There are two types of scientific questions. Questions of the relationship type are “laws” and question of why such relationships exist are “theory type” question.
Science and the Human Aspects of Science
- Science has a creative component
- Observations, ideas and conclusions in science are not entirely objective. This subjective (sometimes called ‘‘theory-laden”) aspect of science plays both positive and negative roles in scientific investigation
- Historical, cultural and social influences impact the practice and direction of science
Scientific Knowledge and its Limitations
- Science and technology impact each other, but they are not the same
- Scientific knowledge is tentative, durable and self-correcting. (This means that science cannot prove anything but scientific conclusions are valuable and long lasting because of the way in which they are developed; errors will be discovered and corrected as standard part of the scientific process)
- Science and its methods cannot answer all questions. In other words, there are limits on the kinds of questions that can and should be asked within a scientific framework
McComas, W. F. (2008). Proposals for Core Nature of Science Content in Popular Books on the History and Philosophy of Science: Lessons for Science Education. In Lee, Y. J. & Tan, A. L. (Eds.) Science education at the nexus of theory and practice. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
About Dr. McComas:
William F. McComas, Ph.D. is the inaugural holder of the Parks Family Endowed Professorship in Science Education at the University of Arkansas following a career as a biology teacher in suburban Philadelphia and professor at the University of Southern California. He is involved in many areas of science education research and policy development. He has served on the boards of directors of the National Science Teachers Association, the International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group, the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) and the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT). Dr. McComas is widely published in the areas of the history and philosophy of science. He is a recipient of the Outstanding Evolution Educator award from NABT, the Ohaus award for innovations in College Science Teaching and the Outstanding Science Teacher Educator award from ASTE. He is interested in the improvement of laboratory instruction, evolution education, the interaction of the philosophy of science and science teaching, science for gifted students, and science instruction in museums and field sites.