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Scientific Thinking and Integrative Reasoning Skills (STIRS)


To become engaged and productive citizens prepared to address the critical challenges of the 21st century, college graduates in all fields of study need to be able to:

  • Use scientific reasoning to gather and evaluate evidence
  • Understand how scientific and social science studies are designed and executed and recognize  the implications of design choices
  • Use statistical reasoning to evaluate data and use data to communicate effectively
  • Base decisions on analysis of evidence, logic, and ethics

The STIRS project invites scholars across all sectors of higher education to develop educational resources, curricular designs, and assessment strategies that make evidence-based reasoning a more explicit outcome of liberal education.  Additionally, the project encourages campus leaders to imagine scientific thinking as a means through which to intentionally integrate knowledge, skills, and action across the undergraduate experience and through the widest array of disciplines.

To assist colleges and universities in achieving these goals the STIRS Framework has been developed. While there is no single definition of scientific thinking and integrative reasoning, the project offers this framework to interested scholars and practitioners and invites critique, adaptation, and amendment. Over the course of this two-year project, the STIRS Framework will inform a national conversation and will provide coherence to the development of case-studies, course modules, sample first-year seminars, integrative learning assignments, and other curricular models that integrate evidence-based thinking across general education and into the major. These resources will be developed and tested at all types of institutions, peer reviewed, and shared nationally through AAC&U’s meetings and publications.

STIRS Scholars—named and rewarded for excellence in this important curricular arena—will provide additional leadership to an emerging community of practice (more information forthcoming in 2013).

Get Involved

Peer Review: Fall 2012

Check out the Fall 2012 issue of Peer Review, which features an introduction to the STIRS project by AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider as well as a background article written by Richard K. Riegelman, professor and founding dean, School of Public Health and Health Services at The George Washington University and Kevin Hovland, senior director, academic affairs, at NAFSA.

Complete the STIRS Project Survey to get involved and to help AAC&U shape the project to best meet your needs.

Sign up for the STIRS Listserv to receive project updates and to learn more about how to engage with the STIRS Framework.

Questions? For more information, please email