Scientific teaching

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Scientific teaching is a pedagogical approach used in undergraduate science classrooms whereby teaching and learning is approached with the same rigor as science itself.

According to a 2004 Policy Forum in Science magazine, "scientific teaching involves active learning strategies to engage students in the process of science and teaching methods that have been systematically tested and shown to reach diverse students."[1]

The 2007 volume Scientific Teaching[2] lists three major tenets of scientific teaching:

  • Active learning: A process in which students are actively engaged in learning. It may include inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, or student-centered learning.
  • Assessment: Tools for measuring progress toward and achievement of the learning goals.
  • Diversity: The breadth of differences that make each student unique, each cohort of students unique, and each teaching experience unique. Diversity includes everything in the classroom: the students, the instructors, the content, the teaching methods, and the context.

These elements should underlie educational and pedagogical decisions in the classroom. The "SCALE-UP" learning environment is an example of applying the scientific teaching approach. In practice, scientific teaching employs a "backward design" approach. The instructor first decides what the students should know and be able to do (learning goals), then determines what would be evidence of student achievement of the learning goals, then designs assessments to measure this achievement. Finally, the instructor plans the learning activities, which should facilitate student learning through scientific discovery.[3]


  1. ^ Jo Handelsman, Diane Ebert-May, Robert Beichner, Peter Bruns, Amy Chang, Robert DeHaan, Jim Gentile, Sarah Lauffer, James Stewart, Shirley M. Tilghman, and William B. Wood. (2004). "Scientific Teaching." Science 304(5670, 23 April), 521-522.
  2. ^ Jo Handelsman, Sarah Miller, and Christine Pfund. (2007). Scientific Teaching. Madison, WI; Englewood, CO; and New York: The Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, Roberts & Company, and W.H. Freeman.
  3. ^ D. Ebert-May and J. Hodder. (2008)Pathways to Scientific Teaching. Sinauer Associates, Inc.