Level 4

Alaska Science
Key Element C8

A student who meets the content standard should understand that acceptance of a new idea depends upon supporting evidence and that new ideas that conflict with beliefs or common sense are often resisted.

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Performance Standard Level 4, Ages 15–18

Students analyze the evidence used to support current or historic scientific understanding of an issue as well as the evidence used to support ideas contrary to current scientific understanding.

Sample Assessment Ideas

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Sample Assessment Ideas

  • Students analyze the evidence, pro and con, that the HIV virus causes AIDS.

  • Students analyze the evidence that supports and refutes the idea that the first peoples of the Western Hemisphere arrived via a frozen Bering Sea land bridge.

Expanded Sample Assessment Idea

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Expanded Sample Assessment Idea

  • Students choose a commonly held traditional belief that may cause resistance to scientific evidence. Defend a point of view that respects that belief while maintaining an open mind toward scientific evidence.


Students will:

  1. Choose and research traditional beliefs about the natural world.

  2. Share and discuss ideas in pairs or small groups.

  3. Do research about the scientific evidence regarding the phenomenon.

  4. Write a paper to defend a point of view about the belief.

Reflection and Revision

Modify viewpoint to incorporate anticipated scientific studies.


Levels of Performance

Stage 4
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Student demonstrates extensive understanding of traditional beliefs, societal viewpoints and scientific evidence regarding a phenomenon of the natural world. Student defends a position and maintains an open mind toward the opposing evidence or belief.
Stage 3
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Student demonstrates a clear understanding of traditional beliefs, societal viewpoints and scientific evidence regarding a phenomenon of the natural world. Student defends a position but may choose to ignore certain aspects of the opposing evidence or belief.
Stage 2
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Student demonstrates an understanding of traditional beliefs, societal viewpoints or scientific evidence regarding a phenomenon of the natural world. Student defends a position but ignores or belittles the opposing evidence or belief.
Stage 1
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Student demonstrates a limited understanding of traditional beliefs, societal viewpoints or scientific evidence regarding a phenomenon of the natural world. Student defense of a position lacks detail and contains errors and misconceptions regarding the evidence or beliefs.
Standards Cross-Reference gold rule

Standards Cross-References
( Alaska Department of Education & Early Development Standards

National Science Education Standards

Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models. This aspect of the standard emphasizes the critical abilities of analyzing an argument by reviewing current scientific understanding, weighing the evidence, and examining the logic so as to decide which explanations and models are best. In other words, although there may be several plausible explanations, they do not all have equal weight. Students should be able to use scientific criteria to find the preferred explanations. (Page 175)

Communicate and defend a scientific argument. Students in school science programs should develop the abilities associated with accurate and effective communication. These include writing and following procedures, expressing concepts, reviewing information, summarizing data, using language appropriately, developing diagrams and charts, explaining statistical analysis, speaking clearly and logically, constructing a reasoned argument, and responding appropriately to critical comments. (Page 176)

Scientific explanations must adhere to criteria such as: a proposed explanation must be logically consistent; it must abide by the rules of evidence; it must be open to questions and possible modification; and it must be based on historical and current scientific knowledge. (Page 176)

Scientists are influenced by societal, cultural, and personal beliefs and ways of viewing the world. Science is not separate from society but rather science is a part of society. (Page 201)

Because all scientific ideas depend on experimental and observational confirmation, all scientific knowledge is, in principle, subject to change as new evidence becomes available. The core ideas of science such as the conservation of energy or the laws of motion have been subjected to a wide variety of confirmations and are therefore unlikely to change in the areas in which they have been tested. In areas where data or understanding are incomplete, such as the details of human evolution or questions surrounding global warming, new data may well lead to changes in current ideas or resolve current conflicts. In situations where information is still fragmentary, it is normal for scientific ideas to be incomplete, but this is also where the opportunity for making advances may be greatest. (Page 201)



No matter how well one theory fits observations, a new theory might fit them just as well or better, or might fit a broader range of observations. In science, the testing, revising, and the occasional discarding of theories, new and old, never ends. This ongoing process leads to an increasingly better understanding of how things work in the world but not to absolute truth. Evidence for the value of this approach is given by the improving ability of scientists to offer reliable explanations and make accurate predictions. (Page 8)

In the short run, new ideas that do not mesh well with mainstream ideas in science often encounter vigorous criticism. In the long run, theories are judged by how they fit with other theories, the range of observations they explain, how well they explain observations, and how effective they are in predicting new findings. (Page 13)

New ideas in science are limited by the context in which they are conceived; are often rejected by the scientific establishment; sometimes spring from unexpected findings; and usually grow slowly through contributions from many investigators. (Page 13)

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