Scientific Attitudes

Instructional Design Template
Subject  __Science Education___
Topic ___Scientific Attitudes____


Content (text)
Science educators often say that what is left after everything else is forgotten are attitudes—scientific attitudes (predispositions to think and act in a certain way). Of course, there are also attitudes towards and about science (i.e., do you like science and do you continue to read science) but these are not habits of mind. Scientific attitudes are habits of mind and include, for example,
·        critical mindedness
·        suspended judgement
·        respect for evidence
·        honesty
·        objectivity
·        willingness to change opinions
·        open-mindedness
·        questioning attitude
·        tolerance for uncertainty
This set of scientific attitudes can be accompanied in a science course by technological (problem solving) attitudes; e.g.,
·        perseverance
·        confidence in self
·        critical mindedness
·        creative disposition
·        confidence in technological fixes
·        appreciation for alternative perspectives
A set of society attitudes promoted by an STSE (society, technology, society and environment) approach to science education include; e.g.,
·        tolerance
·        commitment
·        respect
·        confidence
·        vigilance
·        appreciation
·        understanding
Promoting these sets of long-lasting attitudes in the classroom and in the laboratory takes time. Promoting and assessing these attitudes requires a special set of attitudes on the part of the teacher including a great deal of perseverance. The triad of awareness, understanding and action applies to this set of curriculum and instruction outcomes—it takes time to learn how to promote these important predispositions to think and act in a certain way.
·        To promote the learning of habits of mind that affect students’ and teachers’ predispositions to think and act in a certain way. Ultimately, this is about promoting better people and a better society.
Learning Outcomes
·        Teachers are aware of scientific attitudes as learning outcomes for students.
·        Teachers come to understand the importance of scientific attitudes to the enterprise of science and of society.
·        Teachers and learners act on their understanding by using scientific, technological and society attitudes—predispositions to act in a certain way in problem solving contexts.
·        Read the Scientific Attitudes document on the CRYSTAL Alberta website. Select CRYSTAL Alberta Outreach and then Science Reasoning Text and Scientific Attitudes. The document can be downloaded from the link at the bottom of the webpage.
Lesson Plan
·        If starting without a reading, ask the teacher-learners to list what it is that is left after taking a science course when all standard science content is forgotten. Have students work in small groups and report on the results of their discussions.
·        Introduce the concept and definition of scientific attitudes. Review the list of scientific attitudes and define scientific attitudes as predispositions to think and act in a certain way. Use the Word and/or PowerPoint Scientific Attitudes documents available on the bottom of the webpage listed above.
·        Complete the Scientific Attitudes Exercise from the link on the Scientific Attitudes webpage located as indicated above.
·        Discuss the kind of world we would live in if all citizens had a thorough grounding in scientific attitudes.
·        Get specific and talk about a scientific problem such as climate change. How many people do you talk to who have made up their mind, are not open-minded, show no respect for evidence, or have no tolerance for uncertainty? As an exercise use a empty table that lists scientific attitudes and ask students in groups to list a series of actions that would result from using these attitudes (habits of mind) to address the debate on climate change. An empty table (to be used for any such exercise) is provided on the website located as described above. The webpage and file is called Scientific Attitudes in Action.
·        Discuss how scientific attitudes could be
o       added to the structure of a curriculum
o       gradually introduced as a curriculum of scientific attitudes
o       added to your course outline and outcomes
o       promoted in the classroom and in the laboratory
o       taught as subject matter in and around the classroom
o       assessed in the classroom and in the laboratory.
·        Print a poster that lists scientific attitudes and draw students’ attention to this poster—once per class period or, at least, once per week.
·        Scientific attitudes are predispositions to think and act in a certain way—at best they are habits of mind. Scientific attitudes have the potential to be that what is left after all course content is forgotten. They also have the potential for improving ones intellect and ones society. One could argue that the world would be a better place (intellectually and socially) if promoting scientific attitudes was central to science education.
·        Teacher-learners are encouraged to reflect on the most important reasons for science education. Is science education just science content to prepare students for post-secondary education? Does science education have a responsibility to prepare future scientists and future citizens for scientific problem solving and debates? What is the place of scientific attitudes in conveying a complete notion of scientific inquiry and of the nature(s) of science.
·        Extend this list of scientific attitudes to technological attitudes and societal attitudes as listed in the Introduction to this lesson and as listed in the PowerPoint document.
·        It may take time but try to use the lists of attitudes to guide your approach to all discussions and debates. For example, instead of taking a dogmatic position on an issue, argue for participants to be open- and critical-minded, to respect evidence, and to tolerate uncertainty. Your position in the debate can be on process—on predispositions to think and act in a certain way. These habits of mind require practice.