chapter  10
12 Pages

The development of scientific reasoning

ByChristine Howe

As Dunbar and Fugelsang (2005) note, scientific reasoning can be characterized in two ways. It can be regarded as referring to the established body of scientific knowledge when drawing inferences, e.g. when planning, predicting, explaining, and arguing. Reference can be made in informal contexts as well as scientific ones, e.g. ‘How can anyone talk about global warming after two terrible winters?’, ‘Well, scientists say that as the Greenland Ice Cap melts . . .’ Alternatively, scientific reasoning can be viewed as applying scientific methods of enquiry, e.g. observing and experimenting in accordance with established principles. Again, this is not restricted to formal science: many social researchers employ the methods while not regarding themselves as scientists. Promoting the two forms of reasoning constitutes the substance of science education at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, and therefore practitioners and policy makers have a profound interest in how they develop. Accordingly, the present chapter outlines key messages from contemporary research, initially treating the two forms separately but gradually integrating and, in doing this, highlighting implications for practice. Five ‘reflective questions’ are interspersed throughout the text: consideration may assist in consolidation and understanding of the major themes.