Inquiry in the Physical Sciences [PSCI]

Science is an approach to asking and answering questions about the natural world that values empirical observation as a key foundation for developing theories that explain observations. It helps us make sense of the physical processes that underlie the world around us. Inquiries that use a scientific framework draw upon empirical observations (including experimentation), draw logical conclusions supported by the evidence, and articulate evidence-based arguments to advance those conclusions. For conclusions to be accepted, they must be corroborated by others and make accurate predictions. And yet, scientific inquiry is an ongoing cycle, constantly developing more useful, accurate and comprehensive models and methods.

To fulfill part of the UCORE Inquiry: Ways of Knowing requirements, students choose one course (3 credits) in Biological Science [BSCI] and one course (3 credits) in Physical Science [PSCI] such that either the BSCI course or the PSCI course has a 1 lab credit. Courses that fulfill the lab requirement are marked with a (L). College of Arts and Sciences students take one additional credit of Lab (L).

Student Learning Outcomes

Students, regardless of major, who successfully complete a [PSCI] course should be able to:

  • Draw conclusions based on physical science methods or evidence, as appropriate to course level. (WSU Learning Goal: Scientific Literacy)
  • Apply quantitative methods and principles to solve physical science problems or explain scientific observations. (WSU Learning Goal: Quantitative Reasoning)
  • Identify how physical science informs societal developments and issues. (WSU Learning Goal: Critical Thinking)
  • Evaluate physical scientific claims or information based on the sources and the methods used to generate it, as appropriate to course level. (WSU Learning Goal: Information Literacy)
  • Communicate effectively physical science information or findings in written forms appropriate to the discipline. (WSU Learning Goal: Written Communication)
  • Understand fundamental knowledge and concepts in physical science. (WSU Learning Goal: Breadth of Learning)

Revised outcomes approved Spring 2022.

⇒ View approved PSCI courses

For Faculty

Whether submitting a new course for approval for the first time or submitting an updated course as part of UCORE’s renewal process, faculty should submit a completed PSCI Learning Outcomes Grid along with the course syllabus and supporting assignment prompts/activity descriptions. This grid should clearly demonstrate the relationship among UCORE designator learning outcomes, course learning outcomes, and activities and assignments that support those outcomes.

Faculty are not required to insert this learning outcomes grid into the body of the syllabus. However, per WSU syllabus policy, all syllabi must communicate the course’s student learning outcomes to students. If the course holds a UCORE designation, then that communication should occur with in the context of the UCORE designation’s required learning outcomes (e.g. critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, understanding diversity, etc.).

All UCORE-designated courses are required to include in the syllabus a statement of how the course fulfills the specific UCORE requirement.

Please adapt this course description for use in your syllabus. If possible, integrate with course specific description.

XXXX XXX satisfies the PSCI requirement for WSU’s University Common Requirements (UCORE), which is designed to help you acquire broad understanding, develop intellectual and civic competencies, and apply knowledge and skills in real world settings. Upon completion of UCORE, you will have the tools needed to seek out information, interpret it, share it, and make reasoned and ethical judgements on a wide array of issues. With these broader goals in mind, XXXX XXX will develop your ability to ask and answer questions about the physical world in ways that value empirical observation as a key foundation for developing evidence-based theories.

Departments and schools should consider how UCORE student learning outcomes (skill development) map to course level (100, 200, 300, or 400) and design assignments and activities accordingly.

CoursesCourses often taught at 100 & 200 level; some “shared” with other departments or UCORE, or community colleges (external context)Courses generally at 300 and 400 level, often taught by the major department (or across depts, especially in interdisciplinary programs)
Introduce (I)Practice (P)Refine (R)Competent (C)
Levels of Program Learning Outcomes: Content, Skills, and ComplexityIntroduce skills and knowledge Practice basics (methods, skills, content knowledge)
Beginner, collegiate level.  
Practice components to solidify foundational skills and knowledge, build comfort and proficiency (includes practice w/ feedback)Additional development to refine skills & deepen knowledge; use in more complex, demanding contexts (includes practice w/ feedback)Apply methods, skills, and knowledge in multiple contexts at an advanced, complex level; know when and where to apply; Graduating senior major level.

Propose or renew a PSCI course

Additional Resources

Provost Office’s Teach page

Explore this content area of the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President’s website, which contains resources, tips, tools, and techniques to support excellence and innovation in teaching.

Assignment Design Resources

Read guidance from the Office of Assessment for Curricular Effectiveness on developing powerful, clear assignments to impact teaching, learning, and assessment.

Required Learning Outcomes

Depending on the designation, your UCORE course will carry additional learning outcomes requirements.

UCORE Policy

View departmental responsibilities for class size, graduate student instructors, shared syllabi, and more.

Library Instruction

Emphasize information literacy by scheduling with a librarian a session that is specifically tailored to your course.

Syllabus Website

Use this website to confirm required syllabus elements and recommended syllabus elements before teaching a course.