What is science

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Some basics for middle school science teachers in thinking about the nature of science

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What is science

  1. 1. What is Science?David Geelan
  2. 2. There are at least four parts to a definition:• A set of methods and standards for creating and testing knowledge claims• A body of knowledge that has been created by scientists and has (so far) succeeded in passing such testing• The domain of human knowledge that deals with the natural world• A world view or set of values – a commitment to the methods and standards of science in their appropriate domain
  3. 3. Four Broad Disciplines• Physics• Chemistry• Biology• Earth and Space Sciences – geology, meteorology, astronomy
  4. 4. • The boundaries of the disciplines are blurred (and artificial) – chemical physics, physical chemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, molecular biology, etc• Science uses mathematics and technology as tools
  5. 5. What’s The Big Idea?• In teaching it is useful to identify a few ‘big ideas’ that we want students to know• More important than memorising facts and factoids• e.g. in Chemistry, one big idea is ‘everything is made out of chemicals’
  6. 6. What is science to children?• Fun!• Activities• A school subject• A way of knowing about the world
  7. 7. Two purposes of science teaching• Preparation of future scientists, doctors and engineers• Preparation of all students to be informed, participating members of society
  8. 8. ‘Scientia’• The word ‘science’ comes from the Greek word ‘scientia’, meaning ‘knowledge’• Science is about making and testing ‘knowledge claims’ - claims that we know something• We test our claims to know about the world, against the world itself, using experiments
  9. 9. Scientific Methods• (read the relevant literature to know what has been done before)• Propose an hypothesis• Determine what kind of evidence would verify (support) or falsify the hypothesis• Gather the evidence (dependent, independent and controlled variables)• Analyse it to test whether it supports the hypothesis• Critically evaluate your methods and actions
  10. 10. A Fair Test• Adolescents love fairness!• When we claim to know something in science, we have to be able to support that claim with evidence that we have used the right procedures• The procedures (scientific methods) are what make us confident about our claims
  11. 11. My Claim• More coffee makes lecturers perform better• To test my claim, what will we need to measure? (dependent variable)• What will we need to change? (independent variable)• What will we need to keep the same? (controlled variables)
  12. 12. Graphs• One way to represent our evidence is with a graph• We put the independent variable (what we change) on the bottom axis and the dependent variable (what we measure) on the left axis
  13. 13. Another claim• Bouncy balls will bounce higher when they’re warm than when they’re cold• What will we measure?• What will we change?• What will we keep the same?

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