The Scientific Method

How can the scientific method meet the goals of education?

Beyond the scientific method, what other teaching techniques can teacher’s use to help student’s process information effectively and efficiently?


To sum it up briefly, the scientific method can help meet the goals of education by teaching students to make observations, form question and actively connect the information being provided to them with their prior (episodic) knowledge and experiences through the application of procedural knowledge. This quality of connection and involvement goes beyond simple knowledge building and memorization by teaching students critical skills to take a stance on a given topic and (hopefully) through objective observation, questioning, testing and experimentation to challenge/enhance their existing (often declarative) knowledge. It teaches them to question and also gives them skills for systematic investigation/evaluation and interpretation of topics. The nature of the scientific method provides a process rich in SR information to stimulate and involve students in the process. Its questioning structure/methods provide multiple opportunities for elaboration and “advanced organization” through the reporting/recording phases of which could be considered an effective metacognitive strategy to aid in categorizing/labeling information for later retrieval. The single-task/question nature of the scientific method helps ensure that limited memory capacity isn’t overloaded and the lessons can often be built upon in further learning and experiments.  What also struck me was the ability of this method to be executed in relatively short periods of time to ensure “the transfer of new information quickly to the next stage of processing” (Lutz, 2003).


My only concern with relying too much on the scientific method is that it seems concerned primarily with observable phenomina (similarly to the concerns of behaviorism, only applied to the natural world). I wonder if learning entirely from this perspective would limit wider self-evaluation and focus primarily on concrete, factual knowledge and not focus enough on problem solving in less concrete situations?


With that in mind, beyond the scientific method, I’d propose Case Based Learning as another teaching technique that can help students process information effectively and efficiently. It could be used as a somewhat relatable strategy in that it often follows a systematic framework, it usually includes a story and background for comparison and a valuable difference is that it doesn’t focus solely on the scientific or concrete. It typically is used in situations where the answers to questions are ambiguous or open to interpretation, as much of life can be.

Lutz, S., & Huitt, W. (2003). Information processing and memory: Theory and applications. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University

Image source: “Tokyo Design Festa 2008 07p” by Midorisyu is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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