Teaching The Scientific Method: Asking A Question

If you teach primary science, then you will inevitably find yourself teaching the scientific method.

2013-updated_scientific-method-steps_v6

  1. Asking A Question
  2. Background Research/Knowledge
  3. Hypothesis
  4. Design Experiment
  5. Test and Retest
  6. Analyze Data
  7. Draw Conclusions
  8. Communicate Results

Ask a question

It starts with a question, but a question is always preceded by an observation. This means that we must teach our students how to observe. Even though observations are simple, do not assume your students will understand it because you think it is easy. You will have students make unscientific observations. As a way to circumvent this, give your students a simple definition with simple rules to follow. Then give them both examples and non-examples.

Observation: Learning something with your sight, smell, touch, taste, or hearing.

Rules: Not an opinion. Not an inference.

Non-Example Example
“The ants want to climb the tree.” (inference) “The ants are climbing the tree.”
“The flower is beautiful.” (opinion) “The flower has a green stem and purple petals.”

Even with a simple, child friendly definition with simple rules to follow, you will still have students making inferences and creating opinions instead of observations. The only way to fix this is to explicitly model and explain how you make observations and then to give students lots of practice and feedback as individuals or groups.

One way to make their practice more effective can be to have students change an opinion or inference into an observation. For this, you will need to model and explain it first. Again, even if it seems simple to you, it isn’t for your students. If your students thought it was simple, they would do it and get it right.

With that being said, making observations are still simple enough for your students to learn relatively quickly provided they receive explicit modeling and practice with feedback.

Think about every single step you automatically take as you go through the scientific method. You will find that the scientific method is a simplification of the scientific process. Explain and model the little steps, not just the ones your scientific method poster lists on the wall.

To Recap, give your students…

  1. A child friendly definition
  2. Simple rules
  3. Both non-examples and examples
  4. A model on how to make observations
  5. Practice with feedback

3 thoughts on “Teaching The Scientific Method: Asking A Question

  1. Pingback: Teaching The Scientific Method: Background Research/Knowledge | TeachingScience

  2. Pingback: Teaching The Scientific Method: Hypothesis | TeachingScience

  3. Pingback: Teaching The Scientific Method: Background Research | TeachingScience

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