THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS
Scientists make progress by using the scientific method, a process of checking conclusions against nature. After observing something, a scientist tries to explain what has been seen. The explanation is called an hypothesis. There is always at least one alternative hypothesis. A part of nature is tested in a "controlled experiment" to see if the explanation matches reality. A controlled experiment is one in which all treatments are identical except that some are exposed to the hypothetical cause and some are not. Any differences in the way the treatments behave is attributed to the presence and lack of the cause. If the results of the experiment are consistent with the hypothesis, there is evidence to support the hypothesis. If the two do not match, the scientist seeks an alternative explanation and redesigns the experiment. When enough evidence accumulates, the understanding of this natural phenomenon is considered a scientific theory. A scientific theory persists until additional evidence causes it to be revised. Nature's reality is always the final judge of a scientific theory.
The following is a list of the thirteen science processes advocated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). These are best thought of as a set of intellectual skills that are associated with acquiring reliable information about nature. Each process is defined. In addition, comment about the inherent nature of each of the skills is provided. The first eight processes are called "basic processes" and are appropriate for children in the primary grades. The last five are called "integrated processes" and are more appropriate for children at grades four and above. 1. Observation
This is the most fundamental of all of the processes. Observation may be defined as the gathering of information through the use of any one, or combination of the five basic senses; sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. The term observation may also be used to express the result of observing. In other words one might observe and, as a result, gather observations. These observations can also be called data or facts. Observation should suggest objectivity as opposed to the expression of opinion. For example, "John is a bad boy" is not an observation. On the other hand, "John exhibits behavior that we characterize as bad" is an observation. "John is throwing Mary out of the window" is also an observation. Skilled observers seem to proceed from general perceptions of a system to more specific ones so the nature of skilled observing can be thought of as analytical. Systems are first observed as a whole then analyzed for subsystem information. Subsequently, subsystems can be treated as a whole and subjected to further analysis in an ever tightening spiral. Technology can be used to amplify the senses, which provides for even more analysis. A microscope, for example, is a technology that allows us to see things that are too small to be seen with the unaided eye. In summary, observation is an objective process of gathering data through the use of one's senses applied in an analytical way. 2. Measurement
Measurement is an observation made more specific by comparing some attribute of a system to a standard of reference. An example is when the length of an object is expressed in terms of the length of a meter or when the mass of an object is expressed by referring to a standard such as a gram. Measurement and observation are the only process skills that are actually two forms of the same thing. There are many standards that can be employed to make observations more precise. For instance, academic scholarship can be expressed as a grade. When one receives an "A" or a "C" in a course one's performance has been measured relative to a standard. In a similar fashion, a four star restaurant is a measure of quality. As one can see from these examples, a measurement can range from highly concrete and universal to rather conditional....
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