The Distinction Between Experimental and Historical Sciences as a Framework for Improving Classroom Inquiry


  • A previous version of this paper was presented at the North American Research in Science Teaching (NARST) annual conference in April 2013 in San Juan, PR.


Inquiry experiences in secondary science classrooms are heavily weighted toward experimentation. We know, however, that many fields of science (e.g., evolutionary biology, cosmology, and paleontology), while they may utilize experiments, are not justified by experimental methodologies. With the focus on experimentation in schools, these fields of science are often not included in the inquiry experiences our students receive. I propose utilizing the distinction between experimental and historical sciences as a way to improve the diversity of scientific methodologies represented in the science classroom. This distinction can provide a framework for teachers to examine their own inquiry practices in light of the diverse methodologies present in science today. In this paper, the framework is presented and analyzed in light of the scientific practices highlighted in the Next Generation Science Standards and key concepts needed to discuss historical science methodologies are discussed.