Most scientists agree that learning about science has two aspects: 1) learning material that has already been established (for example, the structure of DNA, how to find forces on blocks being pushed up a ramp, the definition of an acid) and 2) learning how scientists gained this knowledge (for example, how new discoveries gain authority and are adopted by the scientific community, how to evaluate scientific claims when they conflict, how to design and carry out investigations to answer new questions). Most high school and college science courses are mainly devoted to learning material already established. Education of how scientists gained this knowledge has traditionally been exclusive to graduate school. GeauxTeach believes scientific literacy for all citizens in a democratic society incorporates factual knowledge with an understanding of the scientific process. Therefore, these skills should be addressed at secondary and undergraduate level.
Research Methods simultaneously provides students specific techniques needed to address scientific questions and an example of how to provide this sort of training for students through individualized instruction.
The purpose of this course is to present GeauxTeach students with the tools scientists use to solve scientific problems. These tools enable scientists to develop new knowledge and insights, the most important of which are eventually presented in textbooks and taught in conventional science classes. These tools include use of experiments to answer scientific questions, design of experiments to reduce systematic and random errors, use of statistics to interpret experimental results and deal with sampling errors, mathematical modeling of scientific phenomena, and oral presentation of scientific work.
Research Methods is primarily a laboratory course, and most of the topics covered are developed in connection with four independent inquiries GeauxTeach students design and carry out. It is also a substantial writing component class, and the written inquiries students produce are evaluated as examples of scientific writing.