Core Objective 9: Science, Technology & Society

The Silver Core Curriculum took effect in the Fall 2016 semester


  • Silver Vein III: Advanced Areas of Focused Inquiry
  • Brief Description of Learning Objective: Students will be able to connect science and technology to real-world problems by explaining how science relates to problems of societal concern; be able to distinguish between sound and unsound interpretations of scientific information; employ cogent reasoning methods in their own examinations of problems and issues; and understand the applications of science and technology in societal context.

Standards or Requirements for Verification

The objective of CO9 is to ensure the student understands how profoundly scientific and technological developments affect society and the environment. In contrast to CO4, which pertains to the natural and physical worlds, CO9 is meant to develop an understanding of human interventions in those worlds and their impact on societies. Courses addressing this Core Objective might focus on historical or contemporary applications of scientific knowledge and their effects. They could examine issues such as the impact of technological advances on work, recreation, communication, economic systems, relationships, health, privacy, and environmental sustainability, among other things. Instructors should be mindful of prior knowledge that may be necessary to understand the concepts examined in the course and either include relevant foundational knowledge or require appropriate prerequisites or corequisites. The course syllabus must be explicit about how students in the course will obtain and/or use knowledge about science and technology in the context of its societal effects.  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 Core Objective will typically be satisfied with a single course that devotes at least 1 credit of student effort (e.g., 15 hours of instruction) to this objective, or that has prerequisite courses that cumulatively devote sufficient attention to the objective.

Courses or sequences satisfying this Core Objective 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 use methods for collecting and analyzing data that can be reported to the Core Curriculum Board.

Capstone courses that integrate CO9 should include among their student learning outcomes some that specify, advance, or broaden this Core Objective.

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

Science, Technology & Society

Students will be able to connect science and technology to real-world problems by explaining how science relates to problems of societal concern; be able to distinguish between sound and unsound interpretations of scientific information; employ cogent reasoning methods in their own examinations of problems and issues; and understand the applications of science and technology in societal context.

Student Learning Outcomes

Courses that satisfy CO9 and Capstones that integrate it may include such SLOs as the following, as appropriate for the level and intent of the course:

Students will be able to:

  • explain how science relates to a problem of societal concern
  • distinguish between sound and unsound interpretations of scientific information
  • employ cogent reasoning methods in their own examinations of problems and issues
  • describe how scientific and technological developments affect society and the environment
  • identify the historical, economic, cultural, and/or societal impacts of such issues as sustainability, energy problems, water quality, and information science
  • demonstrate a knowledge of scientific and technological advancements and their impact on historical and modern societies
  • analyze the scientific debates and ethical concerns of such issues as global warming, biotechnology, GMO foods, healthcare, innovation, and economic competitiveness
  • articulate ways in which society is transformed by science and technology
  • integrate, synthesize, and apply knowledge of the relationship between science and technology and societal issues in both focused and broad interdisciplinary contexts

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.

Courses satisfying CO9 must also include assessment methods and plans. The following are suggestions for assignments that may generate measurable data for assessment, along with some potential measurement tools:

  • shared (standard, program-wide) exam questions that require demonstration of knowledge regarding the scientific method and/or evaluation of how it is employed in research and development of technology (e.g., attention to the connections between research questions, study design, results, conclusions) (multiple-choice questions of this kind might be subjected to item analysis; short written responses might be scored by programmatic raters using a rubric keyed to CO9 SLOs)
  • writing in response to case studies that requires students to explain and/or analyze the impact or influence of science and/or technology in 1 or more social contexts (e.g., local, regional, national, international) (reports or essays thus generated could be collected and scored against a rubric articulating features for 1 or more CO9 SLOs)
  • evaluative arguments (essays) that require students to examine the application of science or development of technology in 1 or more historical or contemporary situations (e.g., nuclear energy production, steam engines, digital communications) (essays thus generated could be collected and scored against a rubric articulating features for 1 or more CO9 SLOs)
  • oral presentations that critically discuss how the scientific method is employed in the development and application of a particular kind of technology (e.g., evaluation of studies related to the technology) (in the context of a live or recorded student performance, these critical analyses might be assessed by 2 or more expert raters using rubrics keyed to the CO9 SLOs).