An Integrated Approach to High School Science
(From the Ohio Department of Education draft, April 2007)
The integrated model addresses grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 benchmarks and indicators of the Ohio Academic Content
Standard, K-12 Science. Students explore the nature of science and learn science the way scientists do science
- by using scientific processes, by inquiring. In addition to the process skills of observing, inferring, and
hypothesizing, the integrated model focuses on developing cognitive abilities such as reasoning, critical thinking,
and using evidence and logic to form explanations (Bybee, 2006).
Research suggests that learning is enhanced when facts and information are presented within a clear conceptual
framework. With an integrated framework, all students learn the core content of life sciences, chemistry, physics
and Earth and space sciences in a standards-based, inquiry-oriented curriculum. The coursework utilizes the
connections that exist between physical, life, and Earth and space sciences to enhance student conceptual
understanding. Instruction is organized so that students meet the benchmarks needed to prepare for the Ohio
Graduation Test (OGT) at the end of grade 10. A third course, Inquiry into Natural Systems, is an option for the 11
th or 12th
grade. However, this model also provides for courses in chemistry, physics, and advanced biology as
well as Advanced Placement courses at 11th and 12th grades. All courses are laboratory courses that provide
opportunities for authentic student inquiry into the discipline and encourage extension of content knowledge
to real-world applications and technological design scenarios.
Learning about science includes opportunities for students to investigate the development of historical examples
to learn how new ideas are limited by the context in which they are conceived; how they may be initially rejected by
the scientific establishment; how they often are derived from unexpected findings; and how scientific concepts and
theories usually change over time through the contributions of many scientists. Authentic, standards-based essential
questions, case studies and problem-solving facilitate the development of student understanding of the unifying
concepts of Earth and space, life and physical sciences. By answering real-world questions, students develop a deep
understanding of the scientific processes and of science content through scientific inquiry. The model includes
core content in life sciences, chemistry, physics, and Earth and space sciences as students learn about the
development of scientific concepts and the nature of science through investigations.
A large body of research indicates that active involvement with the learning process enhances student learning.
In addition, engaging students with content that is relevant to their real lives improves attitudes toward science
as well as achievement. This model builds student understanding by using scientific processes, or inquiry, to
examine and explain natural phenomena. Because inquiry is the foundation of science, this approach enables students
to experience and understand the nature of science and science as a way of knowing.
The integrated model is grounded in two critical perspectives that ensure students develop essential skills and
a thorough foundation of scientific knowledge:
- Science is a way of knowing about the world that is reflected in real-world experiences and applications; and
- Understanding the historical developments of science concepts is essential to understanding modern day science.
The very essence of science is that of a body of knowledge - a system of theories, ideas, data, and hypotheses.
However, much of our teaching of science is fragmented by topic, giving students the impression that science must
be understood as sets of memorized facts organized by discipline. Although the requirements of curricula and scheduling
often require that courses be taught sequentially, it is essential that such curricula have a framework that enables
students to experience the overall nature of scientific knowledge, specifically the way in which essential science
understandings span multiple scientific disciplines. Through an understanding of these connections students realize
the ways in which science is relevant to their daily lives (Krueger and Sutton, 2001; National Research Council, 2000).
By understanding the interconnections between essential science concepts, students are encouraged to think
scientifically about natural phenomena within the context of content-specific knowledge and unifying scientific
principles. Students also benefit from an understanding of science as a way of knowing in which fundamental
concepts are modified over time as new knowledge is attained. Furthermore, students realize that many concepts
cannot be fully understood in the context of only one discipline. An integrated approach provides a logical
framework for the teaching and learning of scientific concepts, because the interconnections among living, physical
and Earth and space sciences concepts are made explicit for students.
With an integrated approach to science curricula, students learn about scientific concepts, not as isolated bits
of information but rather as an interconnected body of knowledge. Students develop lifelong skills that allow them
to think critically and to make informed decisions about their world and the social implications of science. An
integrated approach also emphasizes connections between science and human activity. An integrated approach
encourages scientific literacy and helps students connect science to their own lives improving attitudes towards
science facilitating more informed choices about science-related careers.
An integrated model addresses both content knowledge and process skills. Through an integrated approach, students
gain an understanding of how scientific knowledge develops. This deeper knowledge of science can stimulate interest
and excitement about scientific fields of study, opening up pathways to careers in science. The skills learned
through a process-based approach are transferable to other fields of study and help develop critical thinking
skills (Krueger and Sutton, 2001; National Research Council, 2000). Because students who connect school science to
the real-world are more likely to continue in the study of science (Krueger and Sutton, 2001), this model may
encourage more students to gain the scientific skills and knowledge needed by Ohio’s future workforce.
The integrated model engages students in the exploration of the nature of science and in learning science content
using specific scientific processes and connections between foundational science concepts. The integrated approach in
the grade 9 and 10 courses, Physical and Earth Sciences and Biological and Earth Sciences, form the
foundation for further study by grounding students in fundamental science concepts and processes. This approach is extended
in the 11th and 12
th grades through chemistry and physics courses, which continue integrated and historical approaches. Students
study historical examples to learn how new ideas may be limited by the context in which they are conceived,
specifically, how new ideas are often rejected initially by the scientific establishment (germ theory of disease);
how many discoveries are random or unanticipated (penicillin); and how scientific ideas usually develop slowly over
time through contributions of many scientists (plate tectonics). By applying science to real-world experiences,
students develop a deeper understanding of the scientific processes and of science content. Schools can also offer
students the option of a year-long inquiry-based science course, Inquiry into Natural Systems, to complete the
three-year requirement for graduation, as a transition course to physics, chemistry or advanced biology courses, or to assist those students who have not yet passed the OGT.
Courses for the Integrated Model
Each course is organized into units or “quests” that include: (1) enduring understandings and sample essential
question(s), (2) a suggested historical perspective, and (3) examples of guiding questions. The essential questions
are authentic, rooted in the Standards and apply and extend the science content in each quest to a real-world context.
The historical perspective focuses on the development of scientific ideas and theories over time leading to the
current knowledge base in science. The guiding questions provide examples of how to organize or sequence the learning.
Each quest addresses science process standards and each is aligned to appropriate content benchmarks and indicators.
Ideally, quests are guided by research-based curricular materials that suggest appropriate essential and guiding
questions and historical perspectives for each discipline.
Benchmarks and indicators for Scientific Inquiry, Scientific Ways of Knowing, and Science and Technology are
embedded in each quest. In Quest 2 (Forces, Motion and Energy) of the 9th grade course, students could design a
roller coaster and analyze changes in potential and kinetic energy to understand the conservation of energy. In
Quest 1 (Cells) of the 10th grade course, students could identify the ethical issues involved in stem cell research.
This quest engages students in the Scientific Ways of Knowing and specifically addresses the benchmark on ethical
scientific practices. Further, in several of the real-world applications, students have opportunities to connect
science with technology and to gain an understanding of the dependency of scientific breakthroughs on technological