8.1.1.1 The Practice of Science

Grade: 
8
Subject:
Science
Strand:
Nature of Science & Engineering
Substrand:
The Practice of Science
Standard 8.1.1.1

Science is a way of knowing about the natural world and is characterized by empirical criteria, logical argument and skeptical review.

Benchmark: 8.1.1.1.1 Reasoning in Arguments

Evaluate the reasoning in arguments in which fact and opinion are intermingled or when conclusions do not follow logically from the evidence given.

For example: Evaluate the use of pH in advertising products related to body care or gardening.

Overview

Standard in Lay Terms 

MN Standard in lay terms:

Science, like a good detective, is grounded in evidence.  Conclusions need to be drawn based on data and observations from multiple sources or events and not on personal expectations.  Scientific claims should be able to stand up to the review of peers in both content and in the methods used to gather data or information.  In science, fellow scientists are often (and should be) the biggest critics of published work.  This helps to keep scientists on their toes in terms of using the methods of proper science practice.  As science is an ever-changing field, conclusions must be able to morph as new information becomes available, often through the development of new technologies.  It must be recognized that although scientific conclusions may alter, they are seldom thrown out all together because of the large body of evidence on which they are based.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea:

NSTA Position Statement: The Nature of Science: This statement from the National Science Teachers Association does a good job of delineating the characteristics of science and giving meaning to key science buzz words, such as theory and law.

This standard contains three key word phrases and understanding them should explain the core ideas embedded within.

Science is characterized by empirical criteria. Empirical here is referring to information gathered by experimenting or observing. This information needs to be based on evidence. Adding criteria to empirical implies that the tenants we follow in working with testable hypotheses to design experiments and make observations are based in evidence, not on opinion.

Science is characterized by logical argument. Logical  is a word that modifies the idea of arguments. In science, argument is seen as a beneficial process when evaluating scientific ideas. If our evaluation of an idea is logical then it embodies four qualities. Arguments need to be consistent in that one part of our statement may not contradict another part. Arguments need to be valid in that false inferences may not come from our line of reasoning. Arguments need to be complete in that nothing needs to be added to it in order to explain our position. Finally, arguments need to be sound in that our lines of proof  are evidence-based.

Science is characterized by skeptical review. Review of scientific ideas by others in the scientific community is an essential step in the ongoing growth of these ideas. Skeptical again is a word that modifies this process by testing the reliability of proposed scientific claims by subjecting them to a systematic investigation using empirical means of  evaluation.

Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks: 

8.1.1.1.1  Evaluate the reasoning in arguments in which fact and opinion are intermingled or when conclusions do not follow logically from the evidence given.

THE ESSENTIALS:

     

Correlations 
  • NSES Standards:

Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry

Abilities to Do Scientific Inquiry

THINK CRITICALLY AND LOGICALLY TO MAKE THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN EVIDENCE AND EXPLANATIONS. Thinking critically about evidence includes deciding what evidence should be used and accounting for anomalous data. Specifically, students should be able to review data from a simple experiment, summarize the data, and form a logical argument about the cause-and-effect relationships in the experiment.  Students should begin to state some explanations in terms of the relationship between two or more variables.

RECOGNIZE AND ANALYZE ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATIONS AND PREDICTIONS. Students should develop the ability to listen to and respect the explanations proposed by other students. They should remain open to and acknowledge different ideas and explanations, be able to accept the skepticism of others, and consider alternative explanations.

Understandings About Scientific Inquiry

Scientific explanations emphasize evidence, have logically consistent arguments, and use scientific principles, models, and theories. The scientific community accepts and uses such explanations until displaced by better scientific ones. When such displacement occurs, science advances.

Science advances through legitimate skepticism. Asking questions and querying other scientists' explanations is part of scientific inquiry. Scientists evaluate the explanations proposed by other scientists by examining evidence, comparing evidence, identifying faulty reasoning, pointing out statements that go beyond the evidence, and suggesting alternative explanations for the same observations.

Scientific investigations sometimes result in new ideas and phenomena for study, generate new methods or procedures for an investigation, or develop new technologies to improve the collection of data. All of these results can lead to new investigations.

  • AAAS Atlas:

The Nature of Science: Scientific Theories

The Nature of Science: Avoiding Bias in Science

  • Benchmarks of Science Literacy:

1. The Nature of ScienceA. The Scientific World View

When similar investigations give different results, the scientific challenge is to judge whether the differences are trivial or significant, and it often takes further studies to decide. 1A/M1a

Even with similar results, scientists may wait until an investigation has been repeated many times before accepting the results as correct. 1A/M1b

Scientific knowledge is subject to modification as new information challenges prevailing theories and as a new theory leads to looking at old observations in a new way. 1A/M2

○       Some scientific knowledge is very old and yet is still applicable today. 1A/M3

○       Some matters cannot be examined usefully in a scientific way. Among them are matters that by their nature cannot be tested against observations. 1A/M4ab*

○       Science can sometimes be used to inform ethical decisions by identifying the likely consequences of particular actions, but science cannot be used by itself to establish that an action is moral or immoral. 1A/M4c*

1. The Nature of ScienceB. Scientific Inquiry

○     What people expect to observe often affects what they actually do observe. Strong beliefs about what should happen in particular circumstances can prevent them from detecting other results. 1B/M3ab

○     Scientists know about the danger of prior expectations to objectivity and take steps to try and avoid it when designing investigations and examining data. One safeguard is to have different investigators conduct independent studies of the same questions. 1B/M3cd

Common Core Standards (i.e. connections with Math, Social Studies or Language Arts Standards):

○     Minnesota's newly revised (2010) English Language Arts (ELA) standards set K-12 requirements not only for ELA but also for literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects.

6.14.8.8  Gather relevant information from multiple data,  print, physical (e.g.,                   artifacts, objects, images), and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

6.14.9.9  Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support                              analysis, reflection, and research.

○     Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics (2007 version). Adopted September 22, 2008.

                                     ■8.4.1.1 Collect, display and interpret data using scatterplots. Use the shape of the scatterplot to informally estimate a line of best fit and determine an equation for the line. Use appropriate titles, labels and units. Know how to use graphing technology to display scatterplots and corresponding lines of best fit.

                                     ■8.4.1.2 Use a line of best fit to make statements about approximate rate of change and to make predictions about values not in the original data set.

                                     ■8.4.1.3Assess the reasonableness of predictions using scatterplots by interpreting them in the original context.

Misconceptions

Student Misconceptions 

Understanding Science: How Science Really WorksMisconceptions About Science. This web page is part of the Understanding Science project developed by the University of California Museum of Paleontology, in collaboration with a diverse group of scientists and teachers.

If evidence supports a hypothesis, it is upgraded to a theory. If the theory then garners even more support, it may be upgraded to a law.

Scientific ideas are judged democratically based on popularity.

The process of science is purely analytic and does not involve creativity.

Scientists are completely objective in their evaluation of scientific ideas and evidence.

Science is a solitary pursuit.

Atlas of Science Literacy: The Nature of Science: Scientific Theories:

Although most students believe that scientific knowledge changes, they typically think changes occur mainly in facts and mostly through the invention of improved technology for observation and measurement. They do not recognize that changed theories sometimes suggest new observations or reinterpretation of previous observations.

Students of all ages find it difficult to distinguish between a theory and the evidence for it, or between description of evidence and interpretation of evidence.  Some research suggests students can start understanding the distinction between theory and evidence after adequate instruction, as early as middle school.

Atlas of Science Literacy: The Nature of Science: Avoiding Bias in Science:

Students tend to look for or accept evidence that is consistent with their prior beliefs and either distort or fail to generate evidence that is inconsistent with these beliefs. These deficiencies tend to mitigate over time and with experience.

Vignette

The standard in action with a student-centered classroom

Students in Mrs. K's class were starting a unit on climate and climate change.  Sam said, "I heard all the polar ice caps are going to melt and the whole world is going to flood.  That's scary!" Logan countered, "Oh baloney!  That's just a theory - just like evolution.  Last week it was -20 degrees here.  There isn't any global warming." "Well", drawled Brandon, "We won't have to worry about it anyway.  The Mayan calendar says the world is going to end in 2012."  "Let's step back and take a look at this before we get into our unit", cautioned Mrs. K.  "I want to do a little formative assessment with the class, just to see what everyone thinks."  Mrs. K.  flipped on the projector and said, "I am glad you brought up the word theory, Logan.  Our question today is 'Is it a Theory?'.  Under the heading you will see that there are a number of choices from which to select.  I am going to hand out a sheet just like this and I would like you to do it on your own first, then discuss it with your group.  I want you to see if you can come to a consensus in your group about which of these statements are true about a theory.  In about 15 minutes we will come back together and see what you decided.

The first few minutes students quietly worked on their own sheets.  Slowly the noise level rose to a fury as students made points and counterpoints, trying to come to a mutual understanding.  "All right - come back", implored Mrs. K.  "Everyone deep breathe."  Kari's deep inhalation and expiration made the other students laugh and the class relaxed.  Mrs.  K. had each group in turn present their thoughts on "Is it a Theory".  "So, what can you summarize about our discussion as a class today?", she asked as the last group took their seats.  Sarah said, "Well, even though there were things not everyone agreed on, most of us thought that theories are based on some pretty strong evidence - from a lot of scientists - not just one.  A theory has to be based on evidence and not just on what someone thinks."  "I want you to keep in mind what Sarah just said as you encounter topics in science.  A lot of people use the word theory more casually than we do in science.  Evidence is the key!"

I know you have a lot of questions about climate change and I want to have you address those.  In your groups, I would like you to take about another 15 minutes and brainstorm a list of questions that you have about climate change.  Jot them in your notebook, then pick your top 5 to write on a white board."  Students eagerly got to work on their list.  After a time, Mrs. K. asked them to share their top 5 items with the rest of the class.  "Here is what I want you to do.  I want you to research the answers to your questions.  As scientists - and that's what you should consider yourselves - what should you be looking for?  "Evidence!", shouted Monte.  "Yes", said Mrs. K. "And what kind of places are you going to look for that evidence?"  MaKayla said, "We should probably use websites that are like actual science sites - not just someone's opinion or something that may not really be science data or information." "Great!", beamed Mrs. K.  "If you aren't sure about a site,  just ask.  I have a list on my web page of some climate sites that can at least get you started."

A few days later, the class presented their findings on their climate questions to each other.  Queries ranged from the melting polar ice caps and the extinction of polar bears to the apparent increase in the severity of storms in the area.  At the end of the presentations, Mrs. K. again asked students to summarize.  "What did we find out?"  Kaitlyn said, "Well, some of the things we heard about climate change were true and some were not.  But even more of the things we have heard are kind of true, but also kind of not." "Yeah", said Kyle.  "A lot of things had some truth to them, but when you started researching them you found out that they had really been twisted. Like, yes there will be coastal areas that flood because of melting polar ice, but the whole world isn't going to flood."  "That's a relief!", sighed Sam.  "But, that still doesn't explain that Mayan calendar thing!", quipped Brandon.

Resources

Instructional Notes 

Instructional suggestions/options; examples of best practices with a focus on active engagement practices (reflected in snapshot).

Tips and strategies for teaching the nature and process of science is a publication by The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California and is posted as a PDF on their website. Their list of tips and strategies needs to copied off and put in places where you sit and ponder the design of your lessons.

Selected activities, labs, lessons, problems, etc. Align w/Benchmark code. Should be reflected in snapshot.

Great Lakes Regional Assessment: This page gives a summary of the possible effects of climate change in the Great Lakes area, as suggested by computer models into the year 2030.  The summary is broken up into different areas of impact:  climate in general, quality of life, agriculture, land ecology, water ecology, and water resources.  Students may look for data online to support/refute these computer-projected changes.  Some of them could possibly also be a springboard to some field research (identification of species in a woods plot) or other student-gathered data (temperatures) over multiple school years to see if student data supports the projected changes.  Conversations  could then also be developed around the validity of their own data compared to that of scientists working in the field. 8.1.1.1.1, 8.3.2.2.1, 8.3.2.1.3

Refdesk.com provides easy access to a multitude of news sources on one page. Current news articles or video clips are good places to have students begin to evaluate claims (or hints of claims) made in the media and to look at the data sources for those claims, as appropriate for middle school students.  What does the data really say?  How big of a sample size was involved in the study?  Has this research been repeated?  Is this information even based on research?  Current events in the news often grab students' interest and allow them to engage in the process more thoroughly.  Tying the science to the things students hear about in the news also helps them to see the involvement of science in their daily lives. 8.1.1.1.1

Mystery Tubes Debbink A., Brown K. (2010) This lesson serves as a good introduction to the nature of scientific inquiry. Students are asked to determine what the interior construction of a mystery tube looks like. Working in small groups, students pose explanations (hypotheses) for what they are observing and are asked to test their hypotheses and then defend their findings. 8.1.1.1.1, 8.1.1.1.2

Instructional Resources 

Additional resources or links:

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has two parts of their site that may be of particular use in the evaluation of climate change.  The "Climate" page  has general information related to Minnesota climate, and links to data (historical and present) from the Minnesota Climatological Working Group.  The "Changes Related to Energy and Climate" section indicates projected changes in Minnesota and actions proposed or already taken by the state to lessen those impacts. 

Understanding Science: How science really works maintains a page with an interactive diagram that allows you to visualize a more detailed view of how science works than what you see in most textbooks. The process of science, as represented here, is the opposite of "cookbook" (to see the full complexity of the process, roll your mouse over each element). In contrast to the linear steps of the simplified scientific method, this process is non-linear.  There is also a series of pages on this site that called a Science Checklist that uses Ernest Rutherford work as an example of how science works.

New Vocabulary 

Vocabulary/Glossary:

Understanding Science: How Science Really Works - Vocabulary Mix-Ups

This web page is part of the Understanding Science project developed by the University of California Museum of Paleontology, in collaboration with a diverse group of scientists   and teachers. The vocabulary used in inquiry contains many common words that hold the potential for misunderstanding. Many of these words show up in discussions about the "Scientific Method" and as such, student understanding of these terms is fairly varied. Take time to talk through these terms with your students as they do science in your classroom.  Terms are linked to the Museum website.

Fact

Science

Evidence

Law

Observation

Hypothesis

Theory

Falsifiable

Uncertainty

Error

Prediction

Belief/believe

Technology Connections 

NASA Global Climate Change is an exciting site with many data sets that students can interact with in various ways.  The Sea Level Viewer and  the Global Ice Viewer allow students visuals (based on data) of how these parameters have changed over time. The Eyes on the Earth 3D (a free plug-in is required to view this part of the site) brings students along on the pathway of over a dozen satellites, all collecting data related to climate change.  Students can look at actual data sets in both real-time and over time to evaluate the validity of some of the claims related to climate.

Global Climate Change Research Explorer  gives students a sense of how scientists study natural phenomena-how researchers gather evidence, test theories, and come to conclusions.  Data sets related to the cryosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere and global effects allow students to utilize actual data to make or evaluate claims about Earth changes.  Data from the various "spheres" also allows students to begin to see interrelationships between these Earth areas, rather than viewing them as separate entities.

Prezi is a web-based zooming presentation editor that students may use to present ideas and research in favor of programs like Microsoft PowerPoint. Prezi lets you bring your ideas into one space and see how they relate, helping you and your audience connect. Zoom out to see the big picture and zoom in to see details - a bit like web-based maps that have changed how we navigate through map books. Students will need to create an account that is free with a valid e-mail address.

Glogster is an interactive electronic poster that, much as Prezi listed above, allows students to show interconnections between ideas.  Although it appears a static poster, connections can be made to data sets, videos, etc.  Teachers may set up free accounts on the site for each student or group of students.

Cross Curricular Connections 

Current science topics lend themselves well to political discussions in the social studies classroom or as topics of debate in courses or extracurricular areas, such as speech.  Evaluating claims helps students develop a critical eye, and arms with the information that they need to make decisions on or defend issues.  These are both characteristics that schools and communities aim to develop in the young citizens of their town and world.

Assessment

Students:

Science Knowledge Survey This is a survey that is part of the Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes (ENSI) website. There are a number of pages here that pertain to the teaching and assessing of the nature of science.

Global Climate Change: Evidence and Causes This "clicker case" is part of a collection of case studies at The National Center for Case Studies in Science begins by assessing students' impressions of global climate change and the role that human activities play in recent global warming trends. Students assume the role of an intern working for a U.S. senator. They need to understand the scientific evidence for human impact on climate change so that they can advise the senator on future policy decisions. It is written at a higher level, but interpreting the visual data charts that are used is a skill that needs to be developed at the middle-school level. The answer key may be accessed from this site by registering  at here.

Keeley, P. (2008). Uncovering student ideas in science, volume 3. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

The entire series of Uncovering Student Ideas...books is amazing as both a resource and for a myriad of quick, simple formative assessments, each with research and tips for using, K-12.  This particular volume contains the "nature of science" assessment probes, in addition to those that are more content specific.  For this standard, "Is it a Theory" (p. 83) and "What is a Hypothesis" (p.101) are excellent means of helping students come to terms with their understanding of these commonly (and often incorrectly) used science words.

Teachers:

Questions could be used as self-reflection or in professional development sessions.

What skills do students need to develop to evaluate information related to science?

How can I mold my instructional activities to help students confront their misconceptions about the practice of science and still respect their current opinions/beliefs?

How do my lessons model the practice of science? In what ways do they need to improve?

Do I understand the practice of science well enough to model it consistently for my students and colleagues?

Administrators:

Administrators observing a classroom engaged in this standard may see students confronting controversial topics or claims.  He/she may even see some heated debate as a result.  These are all parts of the process of being able to separate opinions or false claims from evidence-based science.  Many of the topics that are considered controversial are so because of a lack of understanding of the general public as to what is science (and what science is claiming) and what has become "urban legend".  Skilled teachers can help students to become critical evaluators of scientific claims (or nonscientific claims) while tactfully allowing them to confront their misconceptions - or the misconceptions of others on a topic.

Differentiation

At Risk 

Snow, D. (2003). Noteworthy perspectives: Classroom strategies for helping at-risk students (rev. ed.). Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

In 2002, McREL conducted a synthesis of recent research on instructional strategies to assist students who are low achieving or at risk of failure. From this synthesis of research, McREL identified six general classroom strategies that research indicates are particularly effective in helping struggling students achieve success:

Whole-class instruction that balances constructivist and behaviorist strategies

Cognitively oriented instruction which combines cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies with other learning activities

Small groups of either like-ability or mixed-ability students

Tutoring that emphasizes diagnostic and prescriptive interactions

Peer tutoring, including classroom-wide peer tutoring, peer-assisted learning strategies, and reciprocal peer tutoring

Computer-assisted instruction in which teachers have a significant role in facilitating activities

Complete results of this study  may be downloaded here.

English Language Learners 

Herr, N. (2007). The sourcebook for teaching science.

This page contains strategies to help teachers better attend to the needs of their ELL learners.  These strategies are grouped according to the following learning tasks: listening, visualization, interpersonal communication, laboratory, demonstrations, reading and writing, instruction and vocabulary.

Klentschy, M. (2010). Using science notebooks in middle school. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

Strategies:

Front-loading: Teachers plan for words that ELL students will encounter as they do inquiry and within the particular content being studied.  They need to provide not only experience with vocabulary words (the "bricks"), but also the form and context in which they are used in spoken or written language ( the "mortar").

Word Wall: The teacher writes and discusses the needed vocabulary and posts the words on chart paper, sentence strips, or the board, making sure they remain in clear view for students to use as a resource when writing or speaking.

Kit Inventory:  Uses science materials from the current lesson, allowing students to question and discuss the scientific name of these items, their use, and description of the properties of those materials (made of plastic, cylinder-shaped, etc.) in their investigations.

Everyday Words and Science Words:  Purposely contrast the meaning of everyday words and science words (For example: "write down" versus "record").  These could be recorded on a chart for student reference.

Sentence Stems: Use abbreviated stems or scaffolds to help students begin writing in their science notebooks about their inquiry investigations:

  • I observed _____.
  • I wondered _____.
  • I thought _____ would happen.
  • Today I learned _____.
  • Questions I have now _____.
Extending the Learning 

G/T:

Critically looking at the current claims and evidences of the times is an opportunity for gifted and talented students to delve more deeply into science content and to engage in lively debate with their peers.  Earth Magazine, Nature, National Geographic and Science Daily all provide a wealth of current research and findings on a variety of science topics.

Multi-Cultural 

Multicultural science education.  Official NSTA Position Statement.

Native Americans In Science is a webpage sponsored by Oracle Education Foundations ThinkQuest library that highlights contributions different Native Americans scientists have made in different scientific disciplines.

West Virginia University hosts a website that serves as a resource for teaching science to Native American students.

Special Education 

Glencoe/McGraw-Hill has a web-link called Teaching Today that holds a link called Special Education in the Science Classroom: Strategies for Success that contains a comprehensive list of strategies for the multitude of disabilities that comes with a student possessing an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Students With Disabilities is a position statement by the National Science Teachers Association concerning the inclusion of and basic adaptations for students with disabilities in the science classroom.

Many of the adaptations listed below for ELL students also work well for special education students.

Technologies for Special Needs Students: In their newsletter, "Tech Trek",  from the National Science Teachers Association, suggestions are given for using various technologies to make science more accessible to students.  Included are ideas for computer-assisted instruction, assistive technologies (such as voice-recognition software), as well as internet links and  additional resources.

Parents/Admin

Classroom Observation 

The opinions, beliefs, and misconceptions of our students often mirror those of their parents and extended family.  Care must be taken in order to steer students to an understanding of science practice without offending or challenging them or their family.  A few strategies can help us to do that effectively.  First, teachers can be transparent about their intentions in the classroom and make sure parents are aware of not only what happens in class, but also its connections to the rest of curriculum.  Posting lesson plans weekly and updating teacher web pages goes a long way in helping parents feel teachers are being up front in their instructional objectives.  Second, having students brainstorm a list of questions (as is modeled in the vignette above) gives them a means of expressing not only their interests, but also their concerns.  Acknowledging what students think or feel in this simple way prevents the process of critically looking at science practice from becoming a confrontational event. Finally, rather than directly countering student (and therefore parent) thoughts, instruction and interaction with data and information should lead students to a disconnect between common opinion and scientific evidence.  When students make the discovery seemingly on their own they are more likely to be accepting of their discoveries and utilize it as a model for evaluating science or science-like claims in the future.

Parents 

Parents: The opinions, beliefs, and misconceptions of our students often mirror those of their parents and extended family.  Care must be taken in order to steer students to an understanding of science practice without offending or challenging them or their family.  A few strategies can help us to do that effectively.  First, teachers can be transparent about their intentions in the classroom and make sure parents are aware of not only what happens in class, but also its connections to the rest of curriculum.  Posting lesson plans weekly and updating teacher web pages goes a long way in helping parents feel teachers are being up front in their instructional objectives.  Second, having students brainstorm a list of questions (as is modeled in the vignette above) gives them a means of expressing not only their interests, but also their concerns.  Acknowledging what students think or feel in this simple way prevents the process of critically looking at science practice from becoming a confrontational event. Finally, rather than directly countering student (and therefore parent) thoughts, instruction and interaction with data and information should lead students to a disconnect between common opinion and scientific evidence.  When students make the discovery seemingly on their own they are more likely to be accepting of their discoveries and utilize it as a model for evaluating science or science-like claims in the future.