University Studies Advisory Committee

Scientific Approaches to the Natural World


This document provides a description of the Scientific Approaches to the Natural World component of University Studies. In so doing, it differentiates between common component-level student learning outcomes and discipline-specific course-level learning outcomes. The goal is to encourage the development of challenging and varied University Studies courses that share common assessable student learning outcomes.


This component of the University Studies program includes courses that provide students with an understanding and appreciation of the natural world from a scientific perspective. Natural Science is a way of knowing that produces knowledge based upon evidence repeatedly tested by observation and repeatedly refined to be more consistent with observation. Training in the natural sciences is essential for learning to distinguish between testable and un-testable ideas, for recognizing scientifically valid tests of theories, and for understanding the value and limitations of scientific studies. The increasing role of technology in modern life demands scientifically literate citizens who can evaluate and develop sound evidence-based explanations and discern explanations that are not. Courses in this component will introduce students to the major methodologies used in the natural sciences; develop the abilities to analyze, evaluate, and test a scientific hypothesis; foster students' abilities to think critically, identify unifying principles, and communicate using the basic scientific language.


The following are the Common Student Learning Outcomes for Scientific Approaches to the Natural World. These are aligned with the UNCW Learning Goals. Each course in this category must address all of the Common Student Learning Outcomes for the category, and list these Common SLOs along with course-specific SLOs in the course syllabus. Proposals for inclusion in the category will describe the opportunities which will be provided for students to learn the outcome (readings, class discussion and/or activities, applied projects) and list the specific sources of evidence (exams, papers, projects, quizzes, etc.) that will be used to determine the level of student understanding.

The student will:

  • SAN 1. Demonstrate an understanding of basic scientific principles, theories, and laws as well as an awareness of the changing nature of science.[Foundational Knowledge, Inquiry, Critical Thinking]
  • SAN 2. Analyze, interpret, and evaluate scientific hypotheses and theories using rigorous methods (including statistical and mathematical techniques). [Foundational Knowledge, Inquiry, Information Literacy, Critical Thinking]
  • SAN 3. Demonstrate the ability to write and speak critically about the essential questions addressed by the natural sciences, using the conventions and language of one of those disciplines. [Critical Thinking, Thoughtful Expression]


Students are required to take seven hours from this component, including at least two courses with different prefixes. At least one course will have an associated laboratory experience.