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Scientific Reasoning

Definition and Learning Outcomes
Scientific reasoning competency at Norfolk State University denotes intentional, systematic, logical thought patterns that an educated individual is expected to employ during the course of scientific inquiry. Deliberate scientific inquiry processes include, but are not limited to, making meaningful observations, posing informed questions, generating well-articulated hypotheses, collecting sound evidence, carefully testing hypotheses, and developing evidence-based conclusions.

NSU graduates demonstrating competent scientific reasoning skills will be able to:
1. Evaluate relationships between observed phenomena,
2. Evaluate experiments which test hypotheses concerning proposed relationships,
3. Evaluate logical consequences of observed phenomena and determine possible alternative outcomes, and
4. Evaluate the degree to which a particular conclusion is justified based on the empirical evidence related to observed phenomena.

Assessment Methodology
1) To gather evidence of competency, the faculty-developed NSU Scientific Reasoning Test (SRT) will be administered to all students enrolled in the required natural and physical science general education courses (BIO 100, SCI 101, BIO 110, and CHM 110). However, the reporting sample will include only those students who are completing the natural and physical science general education core requirement (i.e., taking the second natural/physical science course). The SRT is a 20-item multiple-choice test. The SRT’s table of specifications demonstrates that all four dimensions of scientific reasoning are appropriately and sufficiently reflected in the test items. The table of specifications and the SRT items have been validated by external test development and evaluation consultants.
2) The NSU Graduating Student Exit Survey (GSES) is administered to all NSU graduating students every semester. Annually, at least 600 students complete the survey. The data on the following GSES items will be reported to triangulate SRT and NSSE data:
- My major/program developed or enhanced my scientific reasoning skills.
- In general, my education at Norfolk State developed or enhanced my ability to understand and apply key concepts, principles, and processes of science (biological, physical, social and technical).

1) Competency in scientific reasoning is defined as an overall minimum score of 70% correct or higher on the Scientific Reasoning Test. It is expected that at least 70% of students successfully completing courses meeting the University’s general education natural and physical science requirement will earn an overall score of 70% or higher on the Scientific Reasoning Test.
2) At least two-thirds of NSU graduates will report on the Graduating Student Exit Survey (GSES) that their education at Norfolk State significantly developed or enhanced their scientific reasoning skills and their ability to understand and apply key concepts, principles, and processes of science (biological, physical, social and technical) (% 4+5 on a scale of 1-not at all to 5-a great deal).

Resource Box

Brown, N.J.S., Furtak, E.M., Timms, M., Nagashima, S.O., & Wilson, M. (2010). The evidence-based reasoning framework: Assessing scientific reasoning. Educational Assessment, 15(3/4), 123-141. doi: 10.1080/10627197.2010.530551
Gasper, B.J., Minchella, D.J., Weaver, G.C., Csonka, L.N., and Gardner, S.M. (2012). Adapting to Osmotic Stress and the Process of Science. Science, 335, (6076), 1590-1591. doi: 10.1126/science.1215582
Quitadamo, I.J., Brahler, C.J., & Crouch, G.J. (2009). Peer-led team learning: A prospective method for increasing critical thinking in undergraduate science courses. Science Educator, 18(1), 29-39.
Sirum, K.L., Madigan, D., & Klionsky, D.J. (2009). Enabling a culture of change: A life science faculty learning community promotes scientific teaching. Journal of College Science Teaching, 38(3), 38-44.
Smith, T.R., McGowan, J., Allen, A.R., Johnson II, W.D., Dickson, L.A., Najee-ullah, M.A., . . . Peters, M. (2008). Evaluating the impact of a faculty learning community on STEM teaching and learning. Journal of Negro Education, 77(3), 203-226.
Thelk, A.D., & Hoole, E.R. (2006). What are you thinking?: Postsecondary student think-alouds of scientific and quantitative reasoning items. The Journal of General Education, 55(1), 17-39.
Timmerman, B.E.C., Strickland, D.C., Johnson, R.L., & Payne, J.R. (2011). Development of a 'universal' rubric for assessing undergraduates' scientific reasoning skills using scientific writing. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(5), 509-547. doi: 10.1080/02602930903540991
Vieira, R.M., Tenreiro-Vieira, C., Martins, I.P. (2011). Critical thinking: Conceptual clarification and its importance in science education. Science Education International, 22 (1), 43-54.
White, B., Stains, M., Escriu-Sune, M., Medaglia, E., Rostamnjad, L., Chinn, C., & Sevian, H. (2011). A novel instrument for assessing students' critical thinking abilities. Journal of College Science Teaching, 40 (5), 102-107.

National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science - Case studies can be used to teach scientific concepts and content as well as process skills and critical thinking. The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science at the University of Buffalo provides a collection of peer-reviewed case studies, in addition to teaching and assessment resources.
CASES Online - Dedicated to Creating Active Student Engagement in the Sciences, CASES is a collection of inquiry-based lessons designed to engage undergraduates and transform them into critical thinkers and life-long learners. Sponsored by the Emory College Center for Science Education.
National Science Foundation - Created to promote the progress of science, the NSF website provides a plethora of information, including news, recent science discoveries, and science resource stastistics.