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Activity: Practices of Scientists

The Teaching Science as Inquiry (TSI) model of science learning helps you to become scientifically literate by teaching you to understand the discipline of science so that your actions have the same demeanors as professional scientists. In this activity you will learn about the disciplines and demeanors of scientists and how you can become more scientifically literate.

  • Blank paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Pictures of student scientists and professional scientists
  • Handout on TSI Disciplines and Demeanors
Part A: Science
  1. What do you think of when you hear the word “science”? Write down a short sentence to define “science”.
  2. There are many different ways to define science. Come up with a group or class definition of science that you can revisit throughout the year. You may use someone else’s definition as a starting point to start your discussion of science.  
Part B: Scientists
  1. We often describe a field or subject based on who practices it. Scientists practice science. Draw what you think a scientist looks like. 
  2. Trade your drawing with a partner. Write down at least five words to describe your partner’s drawing. 
  3. Make a class list of words people used to describe their partner’s scientist. Next to each word, or category, note how many drawings had that feature.
  4. Look at the list of scientist features.
    1. Which ones were the most common? 
    2. What do the words tell you about the drawings?
  5. Come up with a class list of television shows and movies about scientists.
    1. Did the scientist you drew look like any of the scientists on television or in the movies? 
  6. Do you think you are a scientist? Why or why not?
    1. Look at pictures of professional scientists and student scientists. Both of these are pictures of people doing science, but they may be doing science in different ways and for different reasons. Did the scientist you drew look like any of the scientists in the pictures?
    2. Did looking at pictures change your ideas about how scientists? How?
Part C: Demeanors and Discipline
  1. Carefully read the definitions of discipline and demeanors in Table 1 and come up with at least three words or phrases in your group to:
    1. describe the practice of science (what kinds of things make up the field, or discipline, of science), and
    2. describe the demeanors, or characteristics, of scientists (what are things that all scientists value).
  2. Make two columns in your notebook. In one column, you will write down the class words for the discipline of science. In the second column you will write down the class words for demeanors (characteristics) of scientists.
  3. Share your group lists with the class and record your class words in the columns you have made.
  4. Use the TSI Discipline and Demeanors handout to look at the descriptions. These lists are not exhaustive (i.e. they don’t include everything). How do the TSI lists compare to your lists?
  5. Choose one of the TSI demeanors that you struggle to be consistently in science class and write a sentence about how you can better embody this demeanor.
  6. Make a list of other disciplines. Choose one of these disciplines and compare and contrast the demeanors of that discipline to the demeanors of a scientist.
Table 1: Definitions of discipline and demeanors
A discipline is a way of knowing and understanding the world. 
  • People working in the same discipline, or field, follow certain principles, or rules, and behaviors. For example, writers follow the rules of grammar and mathematicians use the language of numbers.
  • Science is one discipline. In other words, it is one way of knowing and one way of understanding the world around us.
  • There are many other disciplines. One discipline is not better than another; each provides a unique interpretation of the world.
Demeanors are the characteristics and values of a group of people. 
  • For example, actors value emotion and creativity and are expressive. 
  • In science class, we adopt the demeanors of scientists. 
  • The demeanors we adopt as scientist practitioners in class represent the characteristics of idealized, perfect science practitioners. 
  • Other disciplines may have their own demeanors or values associated with them. 
  • The ways of knowing, and the values that are important, may be different in different situations.


Part D: Practices of Science
  1. It is important to understand what science is and who scientists are, and it is also important to understand how scientists are engaged in the process, or practices, of science.
    1. The practices of science are things scientists actually do. Look at the italic words in Table 4. This is a good start, but it is not a comprehensive list of the practices of science. 
    2. With a partner, come up with three more examples of how scientists engage in the process of science. 
  2. Combine the demeanors of scientists with the practices of science to create two scientific sentences. The following sentences are examples (demeanors are underlined and the practices are in italics).
    • I am honestly communicating the results of my analysis.
    • We are accurately collecting data by measuring sharks with our meter ruler.


Table 2: Teaching Science as Inquiry Practices of Science
Practices of Science (in italics):
  • Asking questions
  • Making observations
  • Devising a testable hypothesis
  • Collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data
  • Constructing and critiquing arguments
  • Communicating


Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.