Breakout session B:
Using historical examples to teach the process of scientific inquiry

Breakout session B
Using historical examples to teach the process of scientific inquiry

Saturday, November 8, 2003
11:15am - 12:30 pm

Joel Bennington, Professor of Biology, Department of Biology- St. Bonaventure University

Inquiry in the Natural World is an innovative, general-education science course in the liberal arts core curriculum at St. Bonaventure University. It is a required course, taken by about 500 students each year, including both science majors and non-science majors. In this course, we use historical examples from the 17th century to the 20th century to show concretely how scientific advances actually happen. We have incorporated such a course into our liberal arts core curriculum because we believe it is more important for non-science majors to have some appreciation for the real nature of the scientific process, than to be exposed to one or two scientific disciplines on an introductory level. This course arose out of an interdisciplinary collaboration involving faculty in physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and mathematics. For the past four years, the course has been offered using a collection of readings, since no applicable textbook exists. During this time, one instructor has been working on a textbook in line with the rationale of this course, and with guidance from the other course instructors. This summer, faculty in all of the above departments have again come together, supported by internal faculty development funds, to discuss this textbook and to do other work pursuant to adopting the textbook for the coming fall semester. Both the textbook and the course have been enriched as a result of these discussions, and we are excited about the changes that will be implemented this fall.

In the Project Kaleidoscope workshop, we will discuss (1) the course design, (2) the interdisciplinary process involved in the design and implementation of this course, (3) our experiences teaching the course over the past four years, (4) the structure and rationale of the new textbook, and (5) the interdisciplinary process this summer involved in adopting the new textbook. We should also be able to offer preliminary impressions regarding student responses to the revised course and the new textbook.