img The actual doing of science or engineering can pique students’ curiosity, capture their interest, and motivate their continued study. img

endeavor [5, 6]—one that has deeply affected the world they live in. Students may then recognize that science and engineering can contribute to meeting many of the major challenges that confront society today, such as generating sufficient energy, preventing and treating disease, maintaining supplies of fresh water and food, and addressing climate change. Any education that focuses predominantly on the detailed products of scientific labor—the facts of science—without developing an understanding of how those facts were established or that ignores the many important applications of science in the world misrepresents science and marginalizes the importance of engineering.

Understanding How Scientists Work

The idea of science as a set of practices has emerged from the work of historians, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists over the past 60 years. This work illuminates how science is actually done, both in the short term (e.g., studies of activity in a particular laboratory or program) and historically (studies of laboratory notebooks, published texts, eyewitness accounts) [7-9]. Seeing science as a set of practices shows that theory development, reasoning, and testing are components of a larger ensemble of activities that includes networks of participants and institutions [10, 11], specialized ways of talking and writing [12], the development of models to represent systems or phenomena [13-15], the making of predictive inferences, construction of appropriate instrumentation, and testing of hypotheses by experiment or observation [16].

Our view is that this perspective is an improvement over previous approaches in several ways. First, it minimizes the tendency to reduce scientific practice to a single set of procedures, such as identifying and controlling variables, classifying entities, and identifying sources of error. This tendency overemphasizes experimental investigation at the expense of other practices, such as modeling, critique, and communication. In addition, when such procedures are taught in isolation from science content, they become the aims of instruction in and of themselves rather than a means of developing a deeper understanding of the concepts and purposes of science [17].



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