Inductive and Deductive Teaching in Science
Francis Bacon's book Novum Organum provides a framework through which inductive reasoning can be taught. The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia that describes how Bacon introduced inductive reasoning:
Table 1, Essence and Presence:
Table 2, Absence in Proximity:
The above molecule is quite similar to the previous one. Both have the same number and type of elements, 2 C's, 6 H's and 1 O. The difference is: In ethanol there is an O-H (a hydrogen is attached to an oxygen) while in dimethyl ether all the hydrogen atoms are attached to a carbon (C) atom. Of course, more examples should be used for both tables 1 and 2.
The final table, a set of data that show gradation, could be the following:
Table 3, Degrees
|Copied from ChemWiki|
In this set of data, students are then given the opportunity to quantify hydrogen bonding and realize that it applies not only to O-H, but also to N-H and F-H.
The above is simply an example of how inductive reasoning can be applied in teaching a concept in science. Clearly, for students to grasp the underlying deep structure of a natural phenomenon, sufficient scaffolding or support is required. In this particular case, the scaffold is provided by following Bacon's three tables for inductive reasoning. Whether such an approach is effective or not in teaching science has been recently tested by Shemwell, Chase and Schwartz:
In the above work, the concept taught is Faraday's law and the results summarized in the following figure suggests that the inductive approach is much more effective:
|Above copied from Shemwell, Chase and Schwartz|
Teaching science in an inductive way does sound like discovery-based learning. It is indeed similar. It is bottom-up after all. However, one must take note that a scaffold is very important. Generalizations are not easily drawn by novices. Essence, Absence and Degrees are important tables. These tables serve as guides through which a particular theory, law or concept in science can be effectively taught.