Uploaded by Irfanul Alam


Teaching the Scientific Method using Current News Articles
Authors: Laura K. Palmer, and Carolyn G. Mahan
Source: The American Biology Teacher, 75(5) : 355-356
Published By: National Association of Biology Teachers
URL: https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2013.75.5.11
BioOne Complete (complete.BioOne.org) is a full-text database of 200 subscribed and open-access
titles in the biological, ecological, and environmental sciences published by nonprofit societies,
associations, museums, institutions, and presses.
Your use of this PDF, the BioOne Complete website, and all posted and associated content indicates
your acceptance of BioOne’s Terms of Use, available at www.bioone.org/terms-of-use.
Usage of BioOne Complete content is strictly limited to personal, educational, and non-commercial use.
Commercial inquiries or rights and permissions requests should be directed to the individual publisher
as copyright holder.
BioOne sees sustainable scholarly publishing as an inherently collaborative enterprise connecting authors, nonprofit
publishers, academic institutions, research libraries, and research funders in the common goal of maximizing access to critical
Downloaded From: https://bioone.org/journals/The-American-Biology-Teacher on 10 Jun 2019
Terms of Use: https://bioone.org/terms-of-use
Access provided by University of Colorado System
Teaching the Scientific Method
Using Current News Articles
L A U R A K . PA L M E R ,
C A R O LY N G . M A H A N
We describe a short (<50 minutes) activity using news articles from sources
such as Science Daily to teach students the steps of the scientific method and the
difference between primary and secondary literature sources. The flexibility in
choosing news articles to examine allowed us to tailor the activity to the specific
interests of our student group. This exercise is particularly useful in situations
where there is no laboratory component to a course, the time devoted to teaching
the scientific method is constrained, or the topic is not presented adequately in the
textbook utilized for the course.
Key Words: Scientific method; current events; hypothesis generation.
areas of research (e.g., ecology or theoretical research). One area that
was particularly stressed was that scientists do not undertake investigations to prove a specific hypothesis; rather, scientists accept or reject
hypotheses on the basis of data generated in their studies.
Students were then provided with a copy of a current news
item that summarized a scientific journal article. Summaries of current scientific journal articles are presented in media outlets such
as The New York Times, Science Times, Science Daily, or Science News
Headlines (Yahoo News). These summaries are normally one page in
length, and students can read the entire article in <5 minutes. Along
with the news item, students were also provided the following questions to answer.
Classroom presentations of the scientific method usually involve
1. What were the initial observations that led to the inception of
introducing the process as a series of succinct steps that researchers
this study?
use to investigate questions (for examples, see Sterner, 1998; Sadava
What was the alternative hypothesis for this study?
et al., 2011). Ideally, students have the opportunity to practice this
method by performing investigations in a labo3. What was the null hypothesis for this study?
ratory setting. In some instances, this approach
4. How did the scientists conduct this study
Here, we describe an
is not practical – courses may not contain a
(what was their experimental design)?
laboratory component or there may be conapproach to teaching
5. What were the results of the study?
straints on the time allotted to this topic in the
6. Which primary literature source was this
the scientific method
course curriculum.
study published in?
Here, we describe an approach to teachusing news articles that
7. Which hypothesis was supported by the data?
ing the scientific method using news articles
that describe current journal manuscripts. Our
describe current journal
goals for this lesson were to teach students the
Our students took about 20 minutes to
steps of the scientific method, identification of
complete the questions (students can work
null and alternative hypotheses, and the differindependently or in groups). This exercise
ence between primary and secondary literature sources. Ultimately,
was followed by a discussion of their answers. In all, the entire leswe aimed to show students that critical thinking and scientific
son fit into one 50-minute lecture period. Although many introinquiry can and should be applied when evaluating scientific findductory biology textbooks have a section on the scientific method
ings presented in the news media or in scientific journals.
(our text for this course [Bidlack & Jansky, 2011] did not) and often
A short pre-activity lecture was given to introduce students to
include examples of studies intended to show students the scienthe concepts of null and alternative hypotheses. We also introduced
tific method in practice (for an example, see Sadava et al., 2011),
the basic steps of the scientific method by leading students through
we found using current news articles more engaging for our stuan in-class hypothetical study. The in-class example that we used
dents. Most of the students in our Introductory Plant Biology course
involved a proposed double-blind study for testing a hypothetical
were majoring in Turfgrass Science; thus, we chose an article directly
drug. We explained that the double-blind approach is the “gold stanrelated to golf course maintenance (http://www.sciencedaily.com/
dard” in drug testing but is not always a practical approach in other
releases/2012/01/120131150036.htm) for this exercise. One of the
The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 75, No. 5, pages 355–356. ISSN 0002-7685, electronic ISSN 1938-4211. ©2013 by National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights reserved.
Request permission to photocopy or reproduce article content at the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions Web site at www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintinfo.asp.
DOI: 10.1525/abt.2013.75.5.11
Downloaded From: https://bioone.org/journals/The-American-Biology-Teacher on 10 Jun 2019
Terms of Use: https://bioone.org/terms-of-use
Access provided by University of Colorado System
students even shared the article with his manager at a local golf
course. Thus, not only were the students engaged while they were in
the classroom, but they also took the initiative to share what they had
learned with other members of the community.
Bidlack, J.E. & Jansky, S.H. (2011). Stern’s Introductory Plant Biology, 12th Ed.
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Sadava, D., Hillis, D.M., Heller, H.C. & Berenbaum, M.R. (2011). Studying life. In
Life: The Science of Biology, 9th Ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.
Sterner, R.T. (1998). The scientific method: an instructor’s flow chart.
American Biology Teacher, 60, 374–378.
LAURA K. PALMER is Associate Professor of Biology at Penn State Altoona,
3000 Ivyside Park, Altoona, PA; e-mail: [email protected] CAROLYN G. MAHAN is
Professor of Biology, also at Penn State Altoona; e-mail: [email protected]
FDA Community College Instructor Academy (CCIA)
in the Science of Food Safety and Nutrition
Enhance and
update your science
content knowledge
and pedagogy in
food science!
Get online
with additional
to receive a
year’s subscription/
on-demand access
to over 10,000
resources and
learning tools!
For additional
he FDA CCIA is an online learning program for Community College Instructors who would teach food safety
and/or nutrition as part of their curriculum. The program was developed as a partnership between the FDA
and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). Participants who enroll will increase their content and
pedagogical knowledge in the science of Food Safety and Nutrition, and gain access to valuable lesson plans and
the factual content of undergraduate general biology, human biology, and nutrition classes.
When you enroll in the Academy, you will:
1. Take the Science of Food Safety and Nutrition
2. Participate in a 90-minute orientation webinar,
led by the NSTA Learning Center Sr. Director,
to learn about access to the Center’s resources,
professional learning tools, and community features.
The specific requirements for the Academy will be
described including documentation of your work and
3. Complete two SciPacks (online, interactive learning
experiences) – the Science of Food Safety and
Nutrition, and pass the embedded assessment.
4. Take the Science of Food Safety and Nutrition
5. Teach a lesson, incorporating the content of the SciPacks,
and submit a one-page reflection to receive an honorarium.
6. Receive one year’s full access to thousands of journal
articles, e-Book Chapters, web seminars archives,
podcasts, SciPacks and SciGuides available in the NSTA
Learning Center. Enjoy free access to the professional
learning tools and join other like-minded individuals in
asynchronous discussion forums.
Upon completion of the two SciPacks, you will demonstrate
increased content and pedagogical knowledge in the areas of
the Science of Food Safety and Nutrition.
Contact Isabelle Howes, National Training Coordinator for FDA Food Science and
Nutrition Education Programs: (202) 314-4713 or [email protected]
Downloaded From: https://bioone.org/journals/The-American-Biology-Teacher on 10 Jun 2019
Terms of Use: https://bioone.org/terms-of-use
Access provided by University of Colorado System
Space is
VOLUME 75, NO. 5, MAY 2013