However, the traditional science course for general education isn't the only model available, and probably isn't the best model for the non-science major. One must recognize that the ideal underlying general education requirements is to give the liberal arts student an opportunity to explore all the traditional academic disciplines. To that end, a typical learning objective for most introductory courses is that the student learn to "appreciate" or "enjoy" the subject. Submersing a student in content is often contrary to this goal.
For example, although one could claim a detailed analysis of a corporation's income tax statement would help a student understand the intricacies of the accountancy, it is doubtful that such an exercise would engender positive emotions in a person with only a cursory interest in accounting.
For this reason, the Science, Technology, and Mathematics course should be taught in a nontraditional format in order to enhance student learning, retention, and appreciation compared to the traditional model. The use of non-traditional teaching methods do not, however, mean that there are no clear objectives and goals. If the instructors of a course don't have a clear vision of their instructional goals, then, first, it will be impossible to determine if those goals have been met; and second, it is very probable that those goals will never be met.
If we are to convince students that science and scientific principles are worthy of their attention, then we must teach with the perspective of a scientist explaining what he or she does instead of that of an educator talking about what science is. The first attitude includes the student in the activities of science; the second makes the student an outsider and bystander.
The purpose of this principle is to guide the choice of content and topics. For each possible unit of study, we should ask ourselves if professional scientists engage in that activity --that is, is the task authentic. If current scientists don't use the techniques and principles we are conveying to our students, then we have turned our students into bystanders instead of participants and we are not actually teaching them science.
For that reason, it is important to use real examples instead of "textbook cases". Within this guiding principle there will be room for academic activities to prepare students for real investigations, but whenever possible authentic activities and examples should be employed.
Instructors have high expectations of science majors in the traditional classes because those who teach recognize that academic and professional success will result only if the material is mastered by the students. Our expectations of the non-science major, especially for the physical science classes are different because the course fulfills a different purpose. The purpose of this guiding principle is a restatement of the view that science is important for everyone, not just those choosing science as a profession, and that all students have the ability to understand science and achieve within the discipline.
This principle will definitely affect the choice of course content: if we as instructors don't expect the average non-science major to understand the concepts or master the material, then clearly that content should not be included in this course.
This guiding principle reflects how the course will be taught instead of the content to be included. On the one hand, it demonstrates our current understanding of how students learn; and on the other hand, it also shows the true character of science as an endeavor. One could claim that the only way to present science authentically and to give students the opportunity to behave as scientists is to give them real inquiry experiences.