FEBRUARY 1994 Supersedes all previous printings
STUDIES IN NATURAL SCIENCE (NST-x, NSL) (Core Studies)
Studies in Natural Science: Two courses that develop a student's understanding of scientific knowledge, the process of scientific discovery, and the role of the sciences in society and culture. The two courses taken by a student may not be in the same department or interdisciplinary program; one of the courses must be a laboratory course [NSL]; and while courses in a variety of disciplines may satisfy this requirement, at least one of the two must be in biology, chemistry or physics [NST-B, NST-C, or NST-P].
The two courses taken by a student may not be in the same department or interdisciplinary program. While courses in a variety of disciplines may satisfy this requirement, at least one of the courses must be in biology, chemistry or physics.
- The primary focus of courses is on scientific content, scientific principles, and the methodology of contemporary natural science.
- Courses develop some understanding of how the content and principles were discovered and how they have come to be accepted as valid.
- Courses must include some discussion of the reciprocal relationships between science and society. Courses which treat the broader aspects of science would be appropriate, provided they also satisfy Guideline 1.
- To count as a laboratory course, the students must have substantial and direct experience in doing natural science, including data collection and analysis of experimental results. Labs should also be somewhat exploratory in nature or aimed at discovery. In addition, students should develop some experience in designing experiments.
Comment on Administrative Guideline:
Courses in a variety of disciplines may satisfy this requirement, for example experimental psychology, nursing, nutrition, kinesiology, earth and planetary science, environmental studies, etc., as well as biology, chemistry, and physics. The GEC will look especially carefully at courses offered in areas which are not traditionally considered natural science to be sure that they satisfy the criteria of Guideline 1.
Comments: (Numbers correlate to numbered guidelines)
1. By "content" the GEC means those aspects of the natural world which lend themselves to scientific study. By "principles" the GEC means the basic assumptions which natural scientists use in their study of natural and technological phenomena: e.g., conservation of energy, atomic theory, evolution, constancy of physical processes over time, etc. By "methodology" the GEC means those approaches which natural scientists use in their study, including theory building, direct experimentation, descriptive and predictive model building, and comparisons of predictions with actual observations.
It is impossible to define succinctly and completely "natural science" Areas differ in their emphases and approaches. The GEC will look for the following characteristics of the contents of proposed courses, recognizing that not all courses will have all of these characteristics:
a. Empirical objectivity
b. Consensual knowledge
c. Use of technical and unambiguous language
d. Direct observation of phenomena
e. Use of fundamental principles to explain and understand broad ranges of phenomena
f. Problem-solving methods
g. Use of quantitative methods, graphs and approximations
h. Use of instrumentation, either for controlling variables or for extending and improving observation
i. Experimental manipulation of variables
The GEC interprets the word "primary" as meaning more than half of the course content.
In discussing the content, principles, and methodology of contemporary natural science, courses should help students recognize the differences between the kinds of questions which can be explored scientifically and those which cannot.
3. Examples of relationships which could be included are: the impact of technological developments on society; political and social influences on science through funding sources or other means; how scientific developments change people's world views. . .
The GEC feels that courses which are primarily about science (studying epistemology, structure, history, relations to culture and society, relation to other disciplines, gender issues, ethical issues, relation to technology and impact on environment. . . .) may ordinarily fit better into other places in the curriculum (e.g. "Sociology of Science" in Studies in Human Behavior and Society, "Biomedical Ethics" in Ethical Issues and Normative Perspectives, etc.); however, faculty are encouraged to develop courses which satisfy the guidelines for Studies in Natural Science which integrate these "science studies" topics into courses where the primary focus is on scientific content, principles, and methodology.
4. The GEC expects that normally lab courses will involve a minimum of 25 hours of laboratory work.