Nature of Science (NOS)

While there remains some debate about what defines the nature of science, these facets have been widely accepted and adopted in much of the literature.

  1. Empirical NOS: Science is based, at least partially, on observations of the natural world.
  2. Tentative NOS: Scientific knowledge is subject to change and never absolute or certain.
  3. Inferential NOS: The crucial distinction between scientific claims (e.g., inferences) and evidence on which such claims are based (e.g., observations).
  4. Creative NOS: The generation of scientific knowledge involves human imagination and creativity.
  5. Theory-laden NOS: Scientific knowledge and investigation are influenced by scientists’ theoretical and disciplinary commitments, beliefs, prior knowledge, training, experience, and expectations
  6. Social and Cultural NOS: Science as a human enterprise is practiced within, affects, and is affected by society and culture.
  7. Myth of the “Scientific Method’: The lack of a universal step-wise method that guarantees the generation of valid knowledge
  8. The status of Laws and Theories: Laws are observable (empirical) and generally mathematical in their formulation; theories are inferential attempt to explain laws and other observations (there’s a common misconception among non-scientists, and some scientists, that theories are proven and become laws: “evolution is a theory; gravity is the law”)

While the first seven have been included in the rubric, we often did not use these items and had difficulty being certain how to locate evidence within an assignment of these characteristics. We also found some overlap between the social & cultural NOS and the evaluative HOCS of assessing relevance. Hence on the poster rubric, we have combined these two into one item. We have since focused our efforts to assess student understanding of NOS on the Views of NOS and Student Understanding of Science and Scientific Inquiry assessment tools.

We are collecting data to compare STEM majors and non-majors both before and after our authentic research project based curriculum as well as from our STEM majors towards the end of the undergraduate career.