What Are the Best Tips for Improving Science Process Skills?

Sarah Parrish

The skills necessary to be successful in accomplishing any science process include the ability to be objective, observant, and consistent in action. Intellectual skills necessary for quality contributions to science include communication, planning, foresight, prediction and critical thinking. While skills like pipeting are also commonly used, techniques such as these must be improved by practice. More abstract skills, however, can be improved while participating in almost any activity.

The science process various types of analyses.
The science process various types of analyses.

Aspects of science process skills include fostering curiosity, forming a hypothesis, planning experiments, collecting data, interpreting results and communication of those results. Any activity that forces a person to exercise his or her mental faculties in any of those directions will help improve science process skills. The science process always begins with a natural curiosity about nature.

Fostering curiosity at any age is a good way to improve science process skills.
Fostering curiosity at any age is a good way to improve science process skills.

Participating in activities that arouse one's curiosity will help encourage a continuous state of inquiry. Exposing oneself to new information that warrants further questioning often leads to forming a hypothesis. As more information is gained and more questions arise, predictions are naturally made. A participant in good science process skills will often begin an experiment with a hypothesis, stemming from a situation where information was gained and a prediction was made about why things are how they are.

Experimental planning relies on foresight. Even taking a vacation can be a mental exercise in planning, controlling for confounding variables and trying to prepare for unforeseen circumstances. Detailed planning can often lead to a better experience, whether the person doing the planning is putting effort into a menu for a formal dinner or an experiment. Science process skills can be improved, even in completely nonscientific endeavors.

Data collection requires meticulous techniques and a great deal of observation. Natural curiosity drives observation, but nothing can replace a clear mind and full, present awareness. It's necessary to approach many situations as if they're novel experiences and to be intellectually aroused, acutely aware of circumstances. These new types of experiences will lead a person to naturally become observant and notice details. One way of exercising this skill is to travel to new places or try new experiences.

While data collection often involves taking copious, observant, accurate notes, oftentimes nothing can replace a visual representation of data, like a cell that doesn't look like the other cells growing in culture. In addition, good illustration skills are a benefit to any scientist. One of the most detailed, accurate illustrators in the past hundred years of scientific data collection, Ramon y Cajal, is considered the founder of the study of neuroscience.

Communication is also vital among science process skills. Without accurate and relevant communication, all scientific experiments are essentially a waste of time because other scientists will end up repeating them since the results are unknown. Communication skills can be practiced in almost any social situation and, when social situations are lacking, accurate, informative discussions can be improved by writing and paying attention to clear explanations even in such a simple communication venue as an e-mail.

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