What is the nature of scientific inquiry? How do we use it in everyday life

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    Some Thoughts of a Scientist On Inquiry
    Bruce Alberts

    What do we mean when we emphasize that much of science should be
    taught as inquiry?
    It is certainly easy to recognize another, much more familiar type of science
    teaching, in which the teacher provides the student with a large set of science facts
    along with the many special science words that are needed to describe them. In the
    worst case, a teacher of this type of science is assuming that education consists of
    filling a student’s head with a huge set of word associations —such as mitochondria with “powerhouse of the cell,” DNA with “genetic material,” or motion with
    “kinetic energy.” This would seem to make preparation for life nearly indistinguishable from the preparation for a quiz show, or the game of trivial pursuit.
    If education is simply the imparting of information, science, history, and
    literature become nearly indistinguishable forms of human endeavor, each
    with a set of information to be stored in one’s head. But most students are not
    interested in being quiz show participants. Failing to see how this type of
    knowledge will be useful to them, they often lack motivation for this type of
    “school learning.” Even more important to me is the tremendous opportunity
    that is being missed to use the teaching of science to provide students with the
    skills of problem solving, communication, and general thinking that they will
    need to be effective workers and citizens in the 21st century.

    Models of scientific inquiry

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    In the philosophy of science, models of scientific inquiry have two functions: first, to provide a descriptive account of how scientific inquiry is carried out in practice, and second, to provide an explanatory account of why scientific inquiry succeeds as well as it appears to do in arriving at genuine knowledge of its objects. Such accounts tend to reflect different philosophical positions in epistemology, the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.

    The search for scientific knowledge extends far back into antiquity. At some point in the past, at least by the time of Aristotle, philosophers recognized that a fundamental distinction should be drawn between two kinds of scientific knowledge — roughly, knowledge that and knowledge why. It is one thing to know that each planet periodically reverses the direction of its motion with respect to the background of fixed stars; it is quite a different matter to know why. Knowledge of the former type is descriptive; knowledge of the latter type is explanatory. It is explanatory knowledge that provides scientific understanding of the world. (Salmon, 1990)

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