NSTA has identified three major features of students who actually “Do” science. The first of these is Human explorations of the natural world. The second includes Explanations of the objects and events encountered. And the third requires Evidence to support the explanations proposed. These features should be incorporated in science teaching for all students to ensure that students experience the actual “Doing of Science!”
We want students (and teachers) around the world to experience science in every K-16 science classroom. If we’re doing it right, students will “question”, “think creatively”, and “gather evidence” continually to support the explanations. It is especially important that the validity of the explanations proposed be established. Such experiences with “science” are not typically taught to students by science teachers. All (both students and teachers) should share explanations and interpretations about objects and events which they themselves have encountered.
The use of textbooks, laboratory manuals, teacher lectures, and other quick fixes for teacher actions are all opposite examples of “doing” science. Evaluating what students merely remember and repeat individually and/or collectively does not result in real science learning. Students must formulate their own ideas, including minds-on experiences, to really understand all aspects of “doing” science.
G. G. Simpson explained the “doing of science” looks like this:
- Asking questions about the objects and events encountered;
- Formulating possible answers/explanations;
- Collecting evidence in nature to determine the validity of the explanations offered;
- Checking on other attempts made by other experts; and
- Sharing the solution(s) with others.
“Science” is not like art and drama where teachers admire and/or criticize the performances of their best students. “Science” starts with unknowns and then seeking answers to explain them!
Robert E. Yager
Professor of Science Education
University of Iowa