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SAPA (Science: A Process Approach) and Scientific Method

This page supplements my overview of SAPA` in "Comparisons of Design Process with Other Models of Problem Solving."

I.O.U. — Currently this page is very under-developed, but I'll gradually add more content, maybe by mid-2017.  For awhile, though, there won't be much "structure" to this first section, just comments (for ideas that could be developed more fully "later") and links to pages that have developed some interesting ideas more fully.


Science: A Process Approach

Here are a few good papers about SAPA.

The Science Process Skills - by Michael Padilla, is quoted in my overview of SAPA.

What the Research Says About Science Process Skills - by Karen Ostlund

Students' Understanding of the Procedures of Scientific Enquiry by Robin Millar, examines several approaches and concludes (re: SAPA) that "The process approach is not, therefore, a sound basis for curriculum planning, nor does the analysis on which it is based provide a productive framework for research."


A Process Approach and A Framework for Scientific Method

My overview of SAPA claims that (as far as I know)* "SAPA did not try to describe how these these ‘integrated skills’ are combined into a framework for an overall process of problem solving."  In a whole-parts-whole perspective on instruction, they focused on the parts, not the whole.  Or, viewed from a perspective of analysis-and-synthesis, they analyzed the whole process into process-parts, but didn't synthesize these parts back into a coherently unified whole process.

* SAPA developed a very thorough system for curriculum & instruction;  I haven't studied this, but I'm sure it contains a lot of implicit organization.  But I don't think they ever explicitly proposed an organized framework for a deeper integration of their integrated skills.


Perhaps — but this is only my speculation, which should be considered more carefully and I'll do this later — SAPA's reluctance to propose a framework was motivated by their backlash against oversimplistic step-by-step models of The Scientific Method, such as PHEOC.  This oversimplification of "method" (and the equally unfortunate stereotypes-and-backlash it has produced) are examined to show why yes-and-yes are more important.

Later, this section (or a separate page) will include more about 5-step models for Scientific Method.  For now, I'll just describe the historical beginnings of "5-step models" by quoting from a paper – Epistemology for the Masses: The Origins of “The Scientific Method” in American Schools – that was published in History of Education Quarterly (2005), was awarded the "Best Article Prize" (for 2004 & 2005) by the History of Education Society, and was written by John Rudolph.  He explains how John Dewey — whose models initially popularized the concept of a 5-step method for scientific thinking (and Scientific Method) — rejected the concept of rigid steps in Scientific Method.  Rudolph says, about Dewey:

    He, of course, never intended that the steps be followed in a lockstep fashion.  To correct this widespread misinterpretation he changed the "steps" to "phases" in the 1933 edition and added a new section under a separate heading that clearly proclaimed "The Sequence of the Five Phases in not Fixed."  There he tried to explain that the phases "represent only in outline the indispensable traits of reflective thinking.  In practice, two of them may telescope, some of them may be passed over hurriedly, and the burden of reaching a conclusion may fall mainly on a single phase."  He insisted, quite emphatically, that "no set rules can be laid down on such matters."  But the pattern had been set.  The idea of "steps" had become ingrained in the way many thought about what scientists did.  [page 375 in journal, near the end of the paper that spans pages 341-376] .....
    [Rudolph then explains that scholars] did not uniformly embrace this multi-step characterization [by those who misinterpreted Dewey] of science.  Many philosophers, scientists, and even educators treated method in a far more nuanced way.  It was, however, invoked often enough when discussing the goals of science education to ultimately provoke a [negative] response from those who actually engaged in scientific study.
I.O.U. — Later, more will be here, but most of what I want to say is in the page linked-to above, which explains why NO-and-YES is the best answer when asking "Is there a method?" but why instead we should ask a better question so we can answer YES-and-YES.


A Useful Term has Disappeared

Unfortunately, due to SAPA the term "process skill" already has a commonly used meaning, so maybe (or maybe not)* I will be forced to use "whole-process skill" instead, as in my claim that teaching Design Process will help students improve their "creative-and-critical thinking skills, and the whole-process skills that let them strategically coordinate their thinking-and-actions to form an effective problem-solving process.”

* Maybe I should use the term "process skill" in the way I think it should be used, despite its earlier use by SAPA.  What is the best way?

I think SAPA's use of the term process skill — which corresponds to what I previously (before learning about SAPA) had called a thinking skill — is not the best use, because their individual basic skills (and even their integrated skills) aren't really about the PROCESS, they are just pieces that can be combined (by using "skills with the process") to form a productive process.  A process skill should be skill with the process (by coordinating individual skills into an effectively unified whole that is the process), not just any skill that happens to be used during a process.

But SAPA used the term first, they were good enough to be influential enough to achieve a takeover of the term, and now it's gone.  Sigh.

The simple-and-obvious term is gone, and possible alternatives are more descriptive but less simple.  For example, process skill can be replaced by whole-process skill, or integration-of-parts skill, or parts-combining skill, or skill with combining parts into a process, or something else that is informative but is more complex and less elegant.