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Scientific Reasoning

The goals of measuring Scientific Reasoning Competency are to determine how well our general education requirements prepare students and to make appropriate curricular revisions, if necessary, to improve student performance.

Student Learning Outcomes

Scientific reasoning is characterized by adherence to a self-correcting system of inquiry that relies on empirical evidence and testable theory to describe, understand, predict and control natural phenomena. Specific competencies include the ability to:

  1. Draw conclusions based on valid evidence or proof;
  2. Use the process of scientific reasoning;
  3. Use scientific results to reach appropriate conclusions.


The two courses chosen for the pilot study included a Chemistry course required for science and engineering majors and a general education Oceanography course designed for non-science majors. Overall, 72% of the students in the sample who passed the course earned a passing score on the scientific reasoning portion of the exam. Eighty-six percent of the students in the Chemistry course demonstrated scientific reasoning competency as compared to fifty-one percent of the non-science majors. These results suggest that science courses for non-science majors need an increased emphasis on scientific reasoning. Faculty will begin discussions this summer on curricular changes that can be made in general education science courses to improve student understanding of scientific reasoning.