Inquiry in the Natural World

Abstract - Request for Course Approval and Proposed Syllabus


Inquiry in the natural world was designed to meet the following objectives, as approved by the faculty senate:.


The goal of the course is to give students an experience of the scientific process of inquiry while simultaneously acquainting them with key discoveries and concepts in the modern scientific understanding of the physical universe. The focus in the course will be on the process of scientific inquiry and on a series of pivotal discoveries in the history of science. All instructors in this course (in any given semester) will follow a common syllabus, administer common examinations, and work with the direction of a course coordinator.


Inquiry in the natural world is proposed as a four-credit course, comprising:


The four-credit structure with laboratory is necessary for a number of reasons, outlined in detail on the first two pages of the proposed syllabus.


The content of the course comprises key aspects of the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, biological psychology, and statistics. The course is not intended to give students anything like a comprehensive understanding of these many fields, but the content will be united by a story line in which inherent connections are drawn between each one of these fields. The necessity of preserving this story line is in fact one of the reasons why the course cannot reasonably be reduced to three credit hours, Without this story line, students will not have any sense of the key concepts that make the modern scientific understanding of the natural world a coherent body of knowledge.


Interdisciplinary science courses are not part of the normal teaching experience of most faculty (here or anywhere). Yet we feel it is important that this course not be team taught. To prepare instructors to teach this course, a serious initiative in faculty development will be necessary, including the preparation of in-house briefings and collections of readings for each subject covered, and mutual training of faculty by faculty during the summer before the course is offered as well as during each semester.

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