In chemistry education, students not only learn chemical knowledge and skills, but about the culture of chemistry – how scientists think about, and practise, chemistry. Students often learn that science is practised according to the “scientific method”, which is a model of scientific discovery, expounded by science historians and philosophers. The idealised “scientific method” has a number of steps: the collection of information about a phenomenon; the development of a hypothesis to explain those observations; an experiment to test a prediction that arises from the hypothesis, perhaps including more observations and collection of more information; improvement of the hypothesis; and so on.
The problem is that students (and even some science professionals) often do not understand the philosophy behind the scientific method and paradoxically, the scientific method does not seem to apply to most careers in science. The true nature of science is that concepts have been developed though variants of the “scientific method”, and that a process of testing the predictive value of these concepts has lead to advances in that conceptual knowledge. Hence the “scientific method” applies to the development of scientific ideas, not necessarily to the work of all scientists. It is not whether we personally use the scientific method in our day-today work, but how we use, apply, think about and communicate scientific knowledge and skills that makes us chemists.
Field of Research
130212 Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy 130103 Higher Education 130106 Secondary Education