My introduction to scientific thinking has changed the way I approach many different things. It has given me the skills necessary to employ critical thinking and reasoning in every aspect of my life, not just school. It has made me more skeptical of things I see on television or read in newspapers or magazines. And it has taught me to question things and expect answers.
The research I have been required to do has taught me to examine the sources of information I use. People are bombarded every day with information and all too often they fail to ask if it is legitimate information. In doing research I have learned to evaluate sources scientifically. I ask myself what reason the author of the paper had to write it: was he getting paid for his opinion or was he doing legitimate research; how did he get the information; does it serve a specific agenda (Ellis 137). By gaining a better understanding of scholarly research, I can recognize work that has used the scientific method to gather data and better appreciate the importance of empirical evidence. Conversely, I can also recognize work that does not employ the scientific method properly, but simply serves to sensationalize, feed hysteria, or serve some partisan or economic purpose (Ellis 122). I feel like this has greatly enhanced my information literacy in that I have learned critical thinking skills so I can better evaluate and communicate information from and to other people (VCCS Core Competency n.p).
Being involved in labs has given me the opportunity to become more critical of myself in a positive way. Critical judgement of one’s findings is necessary in scientific work (Ellis 120). Culture may say that we should not be critical, but science requires and even applauds it. I have learned in labs how to better utilize the scientific method and to welcome critical review of my work. As a researcher, the goal cannot be about being right, but about providing evidence (Ellis 117). It is important for students of science to be able to critically evaluate their own work as well as the work of others. Being in labs and working towards higher understanding has allowed me to critically examine my own assumptions and welcome the challenges and critical evaluations of others (VCCS Core Competencies n.p). Advancements in science must necessarily be about the advancement of the science, not the individual ego (Ellis 118). I have learned that if I were to develop a theory one day, I would be just as proud to disprove it as I would be to provide evidence to support it, which I believe has been an important area of personal development. Either way I have contributed to a field of work, and every contribution is an important one to better understanding the science.
I think one of the most important things I have learned is to employ quantitative reasoning. So many of our beliefs about a topic are based on feelings and culture and what we have been taught (Ellis 117). By learning to understand research and the scientific method, I have also learned to set aside the biases of belief and focus on the absolutes made available through quantitative reasoning. When we begin to consider numbers and patterns, cause and effect relationships, and the statistics of a set of data, we can understand things more clearly and definitively. We can form opinions and beliefs based on evidence and speak intelligently about all matters of inquiry relying on the scientific method versus the cultural beliefs or media sensationalism that might drive others (VCCS n.p).
Overall I have learned a great deal. I believe that I have met many of the general education core competencies. This class has improved my critical thinking, information literacy, personal development, quantitative reasoning, and scientific reasoning (VCCS n.p.) by requiring lecture discussion where students can ask, challenge and learn, lab work where we were given the opportunity to employ many of these skills in a hands-on way, and research where we were required to evaluate sources and understand the evidence presented.
Ellis, Dave. Becoming a Master Student. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013. Print.
VCCS Core Competency. Tidewater Community College. 2016. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.