June 2, 2011

Another editorial about teaching the process of science

by Anne Egger

There have been a lot of editorials in Science and other venues over the past couple of years, calling for more teaching of the process of science. The latest is in the most recent issues of Science, entitled Measuring Student Development, and written by David J. Asai, the director of Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education Programs at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Asai says, “An effective program should enable students to demonstrate an understanding of the process of science, regardless of their academic discipline.”

I completely agree. In developing materials for Visionlearning about the process of science, we found it to be very difficult to assess our students’ understanding in a single course – it simply does not provide enough time to see change. Asai’s suggestion to approach this at a programmatic level reflects the complexity and nuance involved in understanding the process of science, and that it requires building skills over time, as should be the case in an undergraduate program.

Not that assessment at the programmatic level is any easier, but it will undoubtedly produce interesting results that can inform how we integrate the process of science into our teaching.

Anne Egger

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Anne is an assistant professor of geological sciences and science education at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA. Her joint appointment reflects two distinct research areas. In her geology research, she combines geological field mapping of the surface and geophysical mapping of the subsurface to better understand the geologic setting and history of regions such as the Basin and Range. In science education, Anne is involved in the development of materials for geoscience education at the college level and works with faculty to integrate best practices into their teaching. From 2004 to 2011, Anne was a lecturer and the Undergraduate Program Coordinator in the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University.