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Core Objective 4: Physical & Natural Phenomena

The Silver Core Curriculum does not take effect until Fall 2016


  • Silver Vein II: Primary Areas of Focused Inquiry
  • Brief Description of Learning Objective: Students will be able to explain the processes by which the natural and physical world is investigated, articulate basic principles used to explain natural phenomena, and apply scientific processes to real problems using observational or experimental methods.

Standards or Requirements for Verification:

This objective may be satisfied by taking 6 credits in the Core Natural Science course list. So as to satisfy the requirement for a laboratory or similar experience, at least 1 course must be taken from the A-group Natural Science courses. Where appropriate, majors are encouraged to develop this objective within their courses, and if possible to integrate this objective into the Core Capstone course.

This objective aims to ensure that students gain a basic understanding of the natural world/universe and how human knowledge was developed and enhanced through scientific exploration. Key to this objective is the concept of scientific processes and methods, namely how scientists address specific questions concerning the natural and physical sciences and how these are incorporated into the larger body of scientific knowledge.

Courses satisfying this Core Objective will meet the expectations for the Core Natural Science requirement and should:

  1. Include the Core Objective, together with its brief description, on the course syllabus in its original form.
  2. Include 1 or more student learning outcomes addressing this Core Objective on the course syllabus, along with other student learning outcomes appropriate to the course.
  3. Identify in the course syllabus the teaching techniques and student experiences that will help students acquire the competencies described in the Core Objective.
  4. Assess whether students have acquired the competency described in the student learning outcomes and methods for collecting and analyzing data that can be reported to the Core Curriculum Board.

Some examples of approved student learning outcomes and assessment methods are listed later in this document. Faculty may incorporate 1 or more of the examples from this list or propose their own student learning outcomes and methods of assessing the objective.


Suggested Student Learning Outcomes & Assessment Methods

Physical & Natural Phenomena

Students will be able to explain the processes by which the natural and physical world is investigated, articulate basic principles used to explain natural phenomena, and apply scientific processes to real problems using observational or experimental methods.

Student Learning Outcomes

Courses satisfying CO4 might feature student learning outcomes like the ones listed below. Faculty may use outcomes from this list or propose their own outcomes addressing the objective. Learning outcomes must be measurable so that they can be properly assessed.

Students will be able to:

  • explain natural and physical phenomena as pertinent to the discipline studied
  • connect natural and physical explanations to the larger body of scientific knowledge and/or understand how these explanations are related to real-world and societal problems
  • describe scientific methods and processes as pertinent to the discipline studied
  • propose scientific questions, gather evidence concerning these questions, make scientific claims based on the evidence gathered, and logically defend these claims
  • discriminate between sound and unsound scientific claims based on the presented evidence

Direct Assessment Methods

All courses that are verified as satisfying a Core Objective will be assessed on a regular basis to determine how well students are learning the knowledge and skills described in the objective. Instructors are expected to develop ways of directly measuring student learning (through evaluating the work students produce in the course) and to report these measurements to the Core Board upon request.

The following are some examples of direct assessment methods that might be used in courses satisfying CO4. Examples of student work should be evaluated according to a clear, consistent rubric or set of criteria. Faculty may choose methods from this list or propose alternative assessment methods:

  • quiz or exam questions that test students' ability to provide an acceptable scientific explanation for physical phenomena (faculty would report the percentage of students that gave a correct or acceptable answer to the questions relevant to this outcome)
  • percentage correct/acceptable quiz/exam questions that test students' ability to describe how scientific explanations could be revealed or deployed in real-world situations
  • student work such as essays, posters, or oral reports evaluated by normed raters using a rubric measuring students' grasp of the scientific methods and processes used
  • hands-on experiments and lab reports evaluated by normed raters with a rubric measuring students' demonstration of the scientific method (asking/proposing a scientific question, seeking evidence concerning that question, formulating a claim based on that evidence, and defending the claim)
  • a written or oral comparison and analysis of competing scientific claims and the evidence used to support them, evaluated by normed raters with a rubric measuring the quality of students' analysis.

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University of Nevada, Reno
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