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Topic

Scientific Skills

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to: 1. Define the meaning of scientific skills; 2. Discuss the importance of acquiring scientific skills; 3. Categorise scientific skills into process skills and manipulative skills; 4. Compare and contrast between science process skills and science manipulative skills.

X INTRODUCTION
Back in the days when streaming was done in schools, Pure Science students had to study thick Physics, Chemistry and Biology books. The question is, Are science books the same as science? The answer is, No, science cannot be simply defined as a number of science books. Science is not only about the "facts", it represents a process of proposing and refining explanations about our world. It stands for the activities of the people who possess scientific attitudes and values; the people who are always using and practising scientific skills in dealing with the world around them. Scientific knowledge is the product of the activities of scientists. In this topic, you will be introduced to scientific skills which consist of science process skills and manipulative skills. The science process skills consist of basic

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SCIENTIFIC SKILLS

science process skills and integrated science process skills. This topic will also discuss why it is important for science teachers, like you, to acquire these skills.

1.1

SCIENTIFIC SKILLS

We are all scientists in our own way. We studied science during our school days. We did science experiments, we talked about science, and today, we teach science to our students. In doing so, we must have possessed what we call scientific skills. Do we have the same idea about what is meant by scientific skills?

ACTIVITY 1.1
In a group of three to four members, discuss and write down: (a) (b) The meaning of scientific skills. The importance of scientific skills to your pupils.

Compare your definition of scientific skills with your coursemates'. Discuss the importance of these skills as well.

Let us look into a science classroom in any school. What do the students do during a science lesson? Do they just read science books, articles or surf for science content from the Internet? Do they just have to listen to the teachers explanation and copy the notes written on the board? Of course, the answer is "No", as they also have to do hands-on activities, as well as make observations, classifications, hypotheses, predictions, etc. They have to do investigations which need certain skills in order to execute the process of investigating.

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SCIENTIFIC SKILLS

Figure 1.1: Science students in a science laboratory and at the school compound

Figure 1.1 shows students doing science activities in a science laboratory and outside the lab during field work. Here, the students are acquiring, applying and enhancing their scientific skills. So, a science class is not solely about reading scientific material. Reading hundreds of science books and memorising the contents will not make any person a scientist. A science teacher needs to plan meaningful hands-on activities to help students acquire, apply and enhance their scientific skills. These skills are associated with the process of conducting investigations in science in order to acquire scientific knowledge.

1.2

IMPORTANCE OF ACQUIRING SCIENTIFIC SKILLS

Teaching students scientific facts is important, but it is even better to help them develop their scientific skills as it will help them learn science on their own. Young students who are taught and equipped with sound scientific skills are able to retain them for future use. This is crucial because as any science person, scientist or science teacher would know, the best way to learn science is by "doing" science. When we teach our students these skills, we are actually providing them skills that they will use in their future lives.

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Figure 1.2 : Teaching students science skills

1.3

CATEGORIES OF SCIENTIFIC SKILLS

You have learnt last semester that there are three elements of science which are all essential. The first element is the product or scientific knowledge which consists of science facts, concepts, laws and theories. The second element is scientific attitudes. The final element is the process of doing science which you will learn in detail in this module. Scientific skills can be classified into two categories science process skills and science manipulative skills. See Figure 1.3.

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Figure 1.3: Classification of scientific skills

1.3.1

Science Process Skills

Science begins with science process skills. These skills form the foundation of science. The term science process skills was popularised by the curriculum project Science A Process Approach by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS Commission on Education. The skills are defined as a set of broadly transferable abilities, appropriate to many science disciplines and reflective of the behaviour of a scientist (Padilla, 1990). Science process skills are used to gather information about the world. These skills enable us to answer our questions about how the world works. In addition to that, these skills help a person to conduct investigations objectively. Science process skills consist of basic and integrated skills. The basic skills are useful in science and also in non-science situations. They provide the foundation for learning integrated skills, which are more complex. The integrated science process skills are the working behaviours of a scientist. There are 12 science process skills listed in the Malaysian Primary and Secondary Science Curriculum as listed in Table 1.1.

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Table 1.1: Twelve Science Process Skills Six Basic Science Process Skills x x x x x x Observing Classifying Measuring and using numbers Making inferences Predicting Communicating x x x x x x Six Integrated Science Process Skills Using space-time relationship Interpreting data Defining operationally Controlling variables Making hypotheses Experimenting

Descriptions of the science process skills are given in Table 1.2.


Table 1.2: Science Process Skills Basic Science Process Skills Observing Classifying Measuring and using numbers Making inferences Predicting Description Using the sense of hearing, touch, smell, taste and sight to find out about objects or events Using observations to group objects or events according to similarities or differences Making quantitative observations by comparing to a conventional or non-conventional standard Using past experiences or previously collected data to draw conclusions and explain events Making a forecast about what will happen in the future based on prior knowledge gained through experiences or collected data Using words or graphic symbols such as tables, graphs, figures or models to describe an action, object or event Description Describing changes in parameter with time. Examples of parameters are location, direction, shape, size, volume, weight and mass Giving rational explanations about an object, event or pattern derived from collected data Defining concepts by describing what must be done and what should be observed

Communicating

Integrated Science Process Skills Using space-time relationship

Interpreting data Defining operationally

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Controlling variables

Naming the fixed variables, manipulated variable and responding variable in an investigation. The manipulated variable is changed to observe its relationship with the responding variable. At the same time, the fixed variables are kept constant Making a general statement about the relationship between a manipulated variable and a responding variable to explain an observation or event. The statement can be tested to determine its validity Planning and conducting activities to test a hypothesis. These activities include collecting, analysing and interpreting data and making conclusions

Making hypotheses

Experimenting (design a fair test)

SELF-CHECK 1.1
1. 2. 3. 4. State the categories of scientific skills. What are science process skills? How do you differentiate between basic science process skills and integrated science process skills? List the integrated science process skills.

1.3.2

Manipulative Skills

Science manipulative skills are psychomotor skills that enable pupils to do science activities more effectively. The science manipulative as stated in the Malaysian school science curriculum is given below: (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) Use and handle science apparatus and substances. Handle specimens correctly and carefully. Draw specimens and apparatus. Clean science apparatus. Store science apparatus.

Detailed descriptions of the science manipulative skills are given in Table 1.3.

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Table 1.3: Science Manipulative Skills

Science Manipulative Skills Use and handle science apparatus and substances x x x Handle specimens carefully correctly and x x x Draw specimens and apparatus x Description Use and handle apparatus and substances correctly and carefully. Set up the apparatus or prepare the substances in an orderly manner. Carry out the experiment following the correct procedures. Handle living and non-living specimens correctly and carefully. Caring for living specimens. Use non-living specimens without waste. Draw specimen, apparatus and substances neatly and using correct scales. Label the drawings correctly. Clean apparatus using the correct method. Dispose waste using the correct method. Store apparatus and substances correctly and safely.

Clean science apparatus

x x x

Store science apparatus

SELF-CHECK 1.2
1. 2. Whataresciencemanipulativeskills? Whatisthedifferencebetweenscienceprocessskillsandscience manipulativeskills?

x x x x

Scientific skills are the skills that we need to do science. Scientific skills consist of two categories science process skills and manipulative skills. The best way to learn science is by doing, thus developing pupils scientific skills will help them learn science on their own. There are six basic science process skills:

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Observing, classifying, measuring and using numbers, making inferences, predicting and communication. The six integrated skills are using space-time relationship, interpreting data, defining operationally, controlling variables, making hypotheses and experimenting.

x x x x

Basic science process skills provide the foundation for learning the integrated skills. The integrated science process skills are the working behaviour of the scientist. Science manipulative skills are psychomotor skills that enable pupils to do science activities effectively. Science manipulative skills as stated in our Malaysian primary science curriculum are as follows:      Use and handle science apparatus and substances. Handle specimens correctly and carefully. Draw specimens and apparatus. Clean science apparatus. Store science apparatus.

Basic science process skills Classifying Communication Controlling variables Defining operationally Experimenting Integrated science process skills Interpreting data Making hypotheses

Making inferences Measuring and using numbers Observing Predicting Psychomotor skills Science manipulative skills Science process skills Scientific skills Using space-time relationship

10 X

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Ministry of Education Malaysia. (2002). Curriculum specification, Science Year 1. Kuala Lumpur: Pusat Perkembangan Kurikulum Ministry of Education Malaysia. (2003). Integrated curriculum for secondary Schools, curriculum specification, Science Form 1. Kuala Lumpur: Pusat Perkembangan Kurikulum Padilla, M. J. (1990). The science process skills. Retrieved June 2, 2012, from www.narst.org/publications/research/skill.cfm. Rezba, R.J. et al. (1995). Learning and assessing science process skills. (3rd Ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. Vitti, D & Torres, A. (2006). Practicing science process skills at home. A handbook for parents.pdf. Retrieved June 12, 2012 from http://www.nsta.org/... /200712TorresHandoutParentNSTAConn Teaching the Science Process Skills. Clean Virginia Waterways. Retrieved June 14, 2012, from, www.longwood.edu/cleanva/images/sec6. processskills.pdf) What are Science Process Skills? wiseGeek. Retrieved June 14, 2012, from http:// www.wisegeek.com/what-are-science-process-skills.htm)