National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Honors in Practice, volume 5. Copyright 2009 National Collegiate Honors Council.


The National Science Education Standards assert the vital importance of the inquiry process: “Inquiry into authentic questions generated from student experiences is the central strategy for teaching science” (National Research Council 1996). Yet students in U.S. high schools have highly variable laboratory experiences, and attempts at inquiry-oriented learning are often “cookbook” activities isolated from the larger flow of science and mathematics learning (Singer et al. 2006). In the higher education environment, it is similarly uncommon for students, particularly first-year students in science and statistics classes for non-majors, to have the opportunity to practice authentic research from formulation of a research question through design and execution of an experiment, analysis of data, and presentation of results. In fact, many science courses for non-majors no longer require a laboratory component. In many such courses, the emphasis is on appreciation rather than practice of the process, and courses at this level, even if they introduce students to the entire research process, focus on the component covered in the course. If, as Rutherford and Ahlgren (1990) assert, “People learn to do well only what they practice doing,” how can students be literate in the practices of science and statistics if they do not practice them?