Skip to main content

Welcome, the Hub connects all projects


Tracking The Footprints Puzzle: The Problematic Persistence Of Science-As-Process In Teaching The Nature And Culture Of Science


"For many decades, science educators have asked, "In what ways should learning the content of traditional subjects serve as the means to more general ends, such as understanding the nature of science or the processes of scientific inquiry?" Acceptance of these ends reduces the role of disciplinary context; the "Footprints Puzzle" and Oregon's "Inquiry Scoring Guide" illustrate this point. In the Footprints Puzzle, students are challenged to distinguish observations from inferences to learn about the nature of science or the culture of science. Oregon's Inquiry Scoring Guide separates content knowledge from inquiry skills. Given long-standing discredit of "the" scientific method, modern views emphasize the diversity of inquiry methods and explanatory ideals across disciplines. Paleontologists, for example, reconstruct the behavior of extinct beasts from fossil footprints using methods of inquiry responsive to this aim. Figuring out dinosaur locomotion depends upon making analogies to the limb structure and behavior of extant species. The history of the Footprints Puzzle demonstrates that an enduring adherence to "a process approach" obscures how conceptualization intertwines with methodology. A discipline's concepts themselves, such as "extinction" and "geologic time," function as tools of inquiry in distinctive and productive ways."