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Week 1

Higher order thinking

Russell Tytler, March 28, 2004

There is a lot of focus currently on the notion of higher order thinking, particularly
in relation to the Middle Years concerns, focusing on engaging students in
meaningful learning. Terms such as the ‘Thinking Curriculum’ are used to
describe a school focus on deeper level ideas. Higher order thinking is used as a
term to describe a number of related ideas, all essentially held to be in contrast to
rote learning, learning of facts, superficial thinking etc. Schemes such Bloom’s
taxonomy have been used to order knowledge forms in a hierarchy, with
information at the bottom (Bloom called it ‘knowledge’ but the term tends to have
a wider meaning these days), then comprehension, then higher levels such as
application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The ‘three tiered intellect’ uses
similar terms, with higher order thinking being associated with words such as
interprets, analyses, reflects, evaluates….

Also associated with higher level thinking are dimensions of creativity, or


divergent thinking. Emphasising, in science tasks, such things as creativity,
imagination, flexibility all aim at developing in students a capacity to think through
ideas and apply them to a range of contexts, to think ‘outside the square’ and to
think critically.

Higher level thinking is also associated with investigative practices in science,


and with problem solving. Such behaviours and knowledge as asking
investigable questions, designing investigations or measurement procedures,
critically evaluating evidence, thinking of ways to test ideas etc. are all part of
what we would hope an engaged and resourceful student to be doing.

The first two SIS Components of effective teaching and learning are closely
related to higher level thinking. These are given below, with links to the science
education literature.

1. Encouraging students to actively engage with ideas and evidence


Component 1 is a key characteristic of effective teaching and learning. It is linked
with a number of important ideas that appear in the science education research
literature, and in curriculum and innovation change projects.

The key idea embodied in this Component is that real learning is an active
process that involves students being challenged, and challenging each other,
rather than accepting received wisdom and practicing its application. A
predominant image projected by this Component is thus one of the active,
searching mind. The underlying logic of this Component is consistent with
constructivist insights into learning.

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This does not in any way diminish, however, the role of the teacher. If anything it
makes teachers’ roles more complex and difficult, in asking them to encourage
students to express their ideas, but to maintain a high standard of challenge and
attention to evidence based on scientific traditions. The Component combines
two ideas — that learning involves activity and engagement, and that scientific
processes fundamentally involve argument from evidence. It is hard, in a
practising science classroom situation, to separate these notions.

Related ideas in the science education literature:

Sharing intellectual control, or student centredness — The idea that students’


ideas be treated with respect is well established in research on students’
conceptions and research on learning in science. The Monash University
Extended PD materials, now embedded within the SISPD program, emphasised
this control aspect. One cannot expect students to be engaged with a pre-
packaged program entirely dictated by teachers’ understandings, and this
Component asks that teachers take some risks in acknowledging that students,
if they are to learn, must be given a measure of control over the ideas that are
discussed.

Inquiry based learning — This is a term much in vogue in the U.S., implying that
science teaching and learning must be based on students actively exploring and
investigating and questioning. This is different to ‘discovery learning’ which, in its
pure form, implied somehow that students could learn science simply by
undertaking appropriate practical investigations, and under-represented the
critical role of the teacher in structuring and responding to student experiences. A
related phrase often used in primary science education is ‘hands-on, minds-on’
science. It is the ‘minds-on’ part that is referred to by this Component.

Student autonomy, and responsibility for learning — These ideas emphasise


both the active and intentional nature of learning and the purpose of schooling in
promoting autonomous adults. Engagement is a prior condition for both. The
Middle Years concern with student engagement with ideas and with schooling is
also linked to this Component. The Component should not be thought about,
however, simply in terms of motivation or a willingness to join in. It focuses
clearly on ideas.

Maximising student-student interaction — A video study of mathematics and


science teachers (Clark, 2001) found that the key determinant of a rich learning
environment was the amount of high quality student – student dialogue. This
could be taken as one of the critical features of engagement with ideas.

Community of learners — This idea of a class or group as a community


dedicated to particular forms of learning sits comfortably with Component 1,
since ‘engagement with ideas and evidence’ can be interpreted as a communal

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enterprise. Social constructivism, or socio cultural theory, is also linked with this
idea.

Argumentation — there is growing interest in idea that the ability to frame and
respond to argument is an important focus for science education. Science as it is
practiced in the community is characterized by argument based on evidence.

Science processes and concepts of evidence — The teaching of science


processes has a long history in science education. These are sometimes called
‘skills’, but in fact there is a good deal of knowledge associated with things like
experimental design, measurement principles, or analysis. Evidence is handled
in science in particular ways (eg. principles of sampling, or variable control, or
measurement procedures) and learning how this occurs in a more formal way is
a part of this first Component. The teaching and learning focus associated with
this would include being taught how to do things like sample biological data,
control variables, set up tables, deal with measurement error etc. These may be
taught explicitly, but teaching for an understanding of the way evidence is used
would imply that students need to learn to make decisions about design,
measurement and analysis. Open ended investigations form an important end of
the practical work spectrum.

2. Challenging students to develop meaningful understandings

Component 2 raises the questions ‘what does it mean to understand something


in science’, and ‘what is meaningful?’ Neither are straightforward questions. The
teachers who were originally interviewed to develop the Components talked of
deeper level understandings, or understandings that would be revisited in
different situations to enrich and challenge.

Related ideas in the science education literature:

Student conceptions — The research into student conceptions shows clearly that
students come to any science topic with prior ideas that will often contradict the
science version of understanding, that can interfere with learning. Learning, and
gaining understanding should be viewed often as a shift in perspective rather
than something implanted over nothing. The conceptual change literature, which
emphasises probes of understanding, and challenge activities, is thus relevant to
this Component. Lesson and topic structure becomes important for the
development of understanding.

Metacognition — The work of the PEEL project has important links to this
Component, focusing on student learning strategies, and control over learning. If
students are to establish deeper level understandings they need to be helped to
develop good learning habits, and to monitor the adequacy of their own
understandings. These ideas underlie the ‘thinking curriculum’ focus of some of
the Middle Years projects.

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Higher order thinking — Many writers have made the distinction between shallow
and deep, or low and higher order thinking. Bloom’s taxonomy identified higher
order thinking as associated with the application and evaluation of ideas. Ideas
such as the ‘three story intellect’ attempt a similar hierarchy.

Deeper or wider? — A commitment to looking below the surface is one way of


describing this Component. Another aspect of meaningful understandings is the
insight that ideas are tools to be applied rather than concepts to be arrived at.
The ability to use an idea in interpreting the world is a critical part of
understanding.

Divergent thinking — Part of what a ‘meaningful understanding’ should be


involves the ability to use it to solve unexpected problems, or to generate a
variety of related ideas. The ability to think divergently or laterally is part of what
a ‘meaningful understanding’ is.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) — In order to support students in


developing understandings, it is essential for teachers to be knowledgeable
themselves (content knowledge), not so they can ‘tell’, but so they can listen and
challenge. The other form of knowledge needed is that of how students
learn particular concepts – the difficulties they experience and the different ways
they may interpret
the science idea. We call this PCK.

Improving Middle Years Mathematics and Science: Components relevant to


Higher Order thinking

Recently (in early 2004) we have been engaged in developing a set of


Components of effective teaching and learning in mathematics and science, and
examples to support two components dealing with higher order thinking are given
below.

3. Students are challenged to extend their understandings

Students engage with conceptually challenging content such that they develop
higher order understandings of key ideas and processes.

3.1 Subject matter is conceptually complex and intriguing, but accessible

3.2 Tasks challenge students to explore, question and reflect on key ideas

3.3 The teacher clearly signals high expectations for each student

This Component is demonstrated when:


• Students are challenged to reflect on their response to tasks

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• Open questions are asked that call for interpretive responses

• The teacher poses questions and hypothetical situations to move


students beyond superficial approaches

• Students are asked to represent their understandings in a variety of ways

• Including frequent open ended problems and explorations

• The teacher provides experiences and poses questions that challenge


students’ understandings, and encourages them to apply ideas to
unfamiliar situations

• Stimulus materials are provided that challenge students’ ideas and


encourage discussion and ongoing exploration

• Historical case studies are used to explore how major science ideas
developed

• Higher order tasks involving the generation, application, analysis and


synthesis of ideas, are well represented, for example, by the teacher using
Bloom’s taxonomy in planning.

• Students are provided with questions or challenges as the impetus for


learning and encouraging and supporting students to construct their own
responses to such questions

• Open-ended problems or tasks are set that require divergent responses


and provide the opportunity for solutions of differing kinds to be
developed.

• Students are encouraged to examine critically and even challenge


information provided by the teacher, a textbook, a newspaper, etc.

• The teacher sets learning challenges that require students to analyse,


evaluate and create

• The teacher uses higher order thinking tools when planning activities to
allow for multiple entry points and to develop higher order thinking skills
such as synthesis, evaluation etc.

The Component is NOT demonstrated when:

• Investigations or projects run without significant class discussion of the


underlying science.

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• Class activities which are fun, with surprising outcomes, but without
follow up of ideas in subsequent lessons, or framing of the ideas behind
the activities.

• Science concepts are treated as ‘things to be learnt’, emphasising formal


definitions.

• There is a presumption that it is the teacher’s role to control what is to be


learnt, and how it is to be learnt.

• Classroom work is constrained or recipe like, without room for discussion


or debate of purpose or methods

• Lesson plans contain too much material to allow sustained discussions in


response to student questions

• Activities focus on having fun without a real focus on conceptual


understandings

5. Students are encouraged to see themselves as mathematical and


scientific thinkers

5.1 Students are explicitly supported to engage with the processes of


open-ended investigation and problem solving

This Component is demonstrated when:

• The teacher plans to strategically build opportunities for students to


develop hypotheses in practical work, and to extend and question
interpretations

• The teacher encourages students to raise questions in class, arising out


of observations, or experience.

• Students are encouraged to make decisions in practical investigations


concerning hypotheses to be explored, experimental design,
measurement and recording techniques, analysis and interpretation.

This component is NOT demonstrated when:

• Students are given a choice of investigations to carry out, but without


training in appropriate experimental techniques and with no group
commitment to the ideas being tested.

• A class experiment focuses on control of variables (fair testing) without a


clear conceptual proposition. For instance, the permeability of sand, loam

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and clay soil is tested, with attention paid to controlling for water, amount
of soil, technique, but without discussing the purpose or the reasons why
they might differ.

• Practical work is recipe-like, without room for discussion and debate of


purpose, methods, analysis.

5.2 Students engage in mathematical/scientific reasoning and


argumentation

This sub-component is demonstrated when:

• Stimulus materials are provided that challenge students’ ideas and


encouraging discussion, speculation, and ongoing exploration

• Time is allowed for discussions to arise naturally and be followed in


class, and encouraging investigations to resolve questions

• The teacher shares intellectual control with students

• The learning program includes frequent open ended investigations or


short-term open explorations

• The teacher encourages discussion of evidence, including disconfirming


evidence such as anomalies in experimental work, in text book
explanations, in observations, or in public reports of science

• The teacher provides students with questions or challenges as the


impetus for learning and encourages and supports students to construct
their own responses to such questions

• Students are encouraged to challenge or support or amplify others’


contributions.

The sub-component is NOT demonstrated when:

ß There is a strong focus on ensuring content coverage, as distinct from


understanding

ß Lesson plans are strictly followed, with too much material to be covered
to allow divergent discussions in response to student questions or
comments.

ß Students work mainly individually, with not much whole-class or small-


group discussion.

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ß Class discussion is dominated by the teacher’s voice.

ß Teacher questions are mainly closed, with a particular response in mind.

ß There is a strong focus on ensuring content coverage, as distinct from


understanding.

ß Intellectual control is firmly maintained by the teacher.

Examples to illustrate the Component:

ß The history of science ideas is strongly represented.


Eg. A science topic on disease focuses on the history of our
understanding of the bacterial nature of infection, to emphasise the power
of science insights, and the way evidence is used to test and verify
theories in science.

ß Attention is paid to the processes of hypothesis generation and


experimental design Eg. Yvonne ran an animal behaviour unit for her Year
1 class. They discussed, using observations of a classroom pet rat, the
difference between observation and inference. They learnt the technique
of time sampling of animal position and behaviour using birds in a cage,
and one, then two rats in an enclosure. Following discussions about the
survival implications of behaviour, they then examined crickets and came
up with a class list of questions about cricket behaviour, or structure and
function. Pairs of students designed, carried out and reported on a chosen
question, using a template that required presentation of data in two
formats, and an evaluation of the generality of the findings. The focus in
the discussion continually referred back to the adaptive purpose of
particular behaviours. Eg. Year 10 students studying genetics investigate
recent claims there has been cross-breeding of genetically modified soy
into local crops. They look at the suggested mechanism for cross-
pollination, and study genetic techniques, to come up with suggestions
about what controls should be in place.

ß Planning is flexible enough so that student ideas and questions can be


genuinely followed up, perhaps by further investigation. Eg. Julie’s Year 4
class raised the question about how long a ballpoint pen would last. They
discussed how you would find out, then arranged a comparative
investigation with different brands, measuring the length of line with
appropriate controls. Eg. During a genetics unit, the question of genetically
modified food captures student interest and leads to a debate informed by
independent research using the web.

ß Anomalous results from experiments are discussed openly in the class.


Eg. Craig’s Year 8 class found an experiment culturing bacteria gave

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anomalous results. Before handing the cultures back to groups he
displayed them, then led a discussion in which they discussed the surprise
results to come up with some possible reasons and an evaluation of the
adequacy of the controls they had put in place. Eg. A class uses de
Bono’s thinking hats technique to fully explore the greenhouse effect. Eg.
A unit is planned using the ‘interactive approach’, whereby students’
questions are discussed and refined to form the basis of investigations
forming the core of the unit.

ß Current issues are discussed in class, which encourage students to


raise questions about evidence, or the ideas underlying such issues. Eg.
Methods of responding to a contemporary outbreak of foot and mouth are
discussed and debated, using newspaper analyses. Eg. The nutritional
value of children’s lunches is discussed, using evidence from a resource
book on dietary principles. Eg. In a unit on road safety, evidence related to
the wearing of seat belts, or of bicycle helmets, is debated in the context
of public policy.

• Open-ended tasks are set that encourage divergent, creative thinking


Eg. Students are asked to use their science understandings to design a
system, or technological device, such as an automated plant nursery, or
method of analysing the movement of a netball player. Eg. Students are
challenged using ‘what would happen if..’ questions (If gravity on earth
was stronger, if we could clone dinosaurs…), or take place in
‘hypotheticals’.

(Task 1)

TEN MYTHS OF SCIENCE: REEXAMINING WHAT WE THINK WE KNOW...


W. McComas 1996

This article addresses and attempts to refute several of the most widespread and
enduring misconceptions held by students regarding the enterprise of science.
The ten myths discussed include the common notions that theories become laws,
that hypotheses are best characterized as educated guesses, and that there is a
commonly-applied scientific method. In addition, the article includes discussion of
other incorrect ideas such as the view that evidence leads to sure knowledge,
that science and its methods provide absolute proof, and that science is not a
creative endeavor. Finally, the myths that scientists are objective, that
experiments are the sole route to scientific knowledge and that scientific
conclusions are continually reviewed conclude this presentation. The paper ends
with a plea that instruction in and opportunities to experience the nature of
science are vital in preservice and inservice teacher education programs to help
unseat the myths of science. Myths are typically defined as traditional views,
fables, legends or stories. As such, myths can be entertaining and even
educational since they help people make sense of the world. In fact, the

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explanatory role of myths most likely accounts for their development, spread and
persistence. However, when fact and fiction blur, myths lose their entertainment
value and serve only to block full understanding. Such is the case with the myths
of science. Scholar Joseph Campbell (1968) has proposed that the similarity
among many folk myths worldwide is due to a subconscious link between all
peoples, but no such link can explain the myths of science. Misconceptions about
science are most likely due to the lack of philosophy of science content in
teacher education programs, the failure of such programs to provide and require
authentic science experiences for preservice teachers and the generally shallow
treatment of the nature of science in the precollege textbooks to which teachers
might turn for guidance. As Steven Jay Gould points out in The Case of the
Creeping Fox Terrier Clone (1988), science textbook writers are among the most
egregious purveyors of myth and inaccuracy. The fox terrier mentioned in the title
refers to the classic comparison used to express the size of the dawn horse, the
tiny precursor to the modem horse. This comparison is unfortunate for two
reasons. Not only was this horse ancestor much bigger than a fox terrier, but the
fox terrier breed of dog is virtually unknown to American students. The major
criticism leveled by Gould is that once this comparison took hold, no one
bothered to check its validity or utility. Through time, one author after another
simply repeated the inept comparison and continued a tradition that has made
many science texts virtual clones of each other on this and countless other
points.
In an attempt to provide a more realistic view of science and point out issues on
which science teachers should focus, this article presents and discusses 10
widely-held, yet incorrect ideas about the nature of science. There is no
implication that all students, or most teachers for that matter, hold all of these
views to be true, nor is the list meant to be the definitive catolog. Cole (1986)
and Rothman (1992) have suggested additional misconceptions worthy of
consideration. However, years of science teaching and the review of countless
texts has substantiated the validity of the inventory presented here.

Myth 1: Hypotheses become theories which become laws


This myth deals with the general belief that with increased evidence there is a
developmental sequence through which scientific ideas pass on their way to final
acceptance. Many believe that scientific ideas pass through the hypothesis and
theory stages and finally mature as laws. A former U.S. president showed his
misunderstanding of science by saying that he was not troubled by the idea of
evolution because it was "just a theory." The president's misstatement is the
essence of this myth; that an idea is not worthy of consideration until "lawness"
has been bestowed upon it. The problem created by the false hierarchical nature
inherent in this myth is that theories and laws are very different kinds of
knowledge. Of course there is a relationship between laws and theories, but one
simply does not become the other--no matter how much empirical evidence is
amassed. Laws are generalizations, principles or patterns in nature and theories
are the explanations of those generalizations (Rhodes & Schaible, 1989; Homer
& Rubba, 1979; Campbell, 1953). For instance, Newton described the

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relationship of mass and distance to gravitational attraction between objects with
such precision that we can use the law of gravity to plan spaceflights. During the
Apollo 8 mission, astronaut Bill Anders responded to the question of who was
flying the spacecraft by saying, "I think that Issac Newton is doing most of the
driving fight now." (Chaikin, 1994, p. 127). His response was understood by all to
mean that the capsule was simply following the basic laws of physics described
by Isaac Newton years centuries earlier. The more thorny, and many would say
more interesting, issue with respect to gravity is the explanation for why the law
operates as it does. At this point, there is no well. accepted theory of gravity.
Some physicists suggest that gravity waves are the correct explanation for the
law of gravity, but with clear confirmation and consensus lacking, most feel that
the theory of gravity still eludes science. Interestingly, Newton addressed the
distinction between law and theory with respect to gravity. Although he had
discovered the law of gravity, he refrained from speculating publically about its
cause. In Principial, Newton states" . . . I have not been able to discover the
cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no
hypothesis . . ." " . . . it is enough that gravity does really exist, and act according
to the laws which we have explained . . ." (Newton, 1720/1946, p. 547).

Myth 2: A hypothesis is an educated guess


The definition of the term hypothesis has taken on an almost mantra- like life of
its own in science classes. If a hypothesis is always an educated guess as
students typically assert, the question remains, "an educated guess about what?"
The best answer for this question must be, that without a clear view of the
context in which the term is used, it is impossible to tell. The term hypothesis
has at least three definitions, and for that reason, should be abandoned, or at
least used with caution. For instance, when Newton said that he framed no
hypothesis as to the cause of gravity he was saying that he had no speculation
about an explanation of why the law of gravity operates as it does. In this case,
Newton used the term hypothesis to represent an immature theory. As a solution
to the hypothesis problem, Sonleitner (1989) suggested that tentative or trial laws
be called generalizing hypotheses with provisional theories referred to as
explanatory hypotheses. Another approach would be to abandon the word
hypothesis altogether in favor of terms such as speculative law or speculative
theory. With evidence, generalizing hypotheses may become laws and
speculative theories become theories, but under no circumstances do theories
become laws. Finally, when students are asked to propose a hypothesis during
a laboratory experience, the term now means a prediction. As for those
hypotheses that are really forecasts, perhaps they should simply be called what
they are, predictions.

Myth 3: A general and universal scientific method exists


The notion that a common series of steps is followed by all research scientists
must be among the most pervasive myths of science given the appearance of
such a list in the introductory chapters of many precollege science texts. This
myth has been part of the folklore of school science ever since its proposal by

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statistician Karl Pearson (1937). The steps listed for the scientific method vary
from text to text but usually include, a) define the problem, b) gather background
information, c) form a hypothesis, d) make observations, e) test the hypothesis,
and f) draw conclusions. Some texts conclude their list of the steps of the
scientific method by listing communication of results as the final ingredient.
One of the reasons for the widespread belief in a general scientific method may
be the way in which results are presented for publication in research journals.
The standardized style makes it appear that scientists follow a standard research
plan. Medawar (1990) reacted to the common style exhibited by research papers
by calling the scientific paper a fraud since the final journal report rarely outlines
the actual way in which the problem was investigated. Philosophers of science
who have studied scientists at work have shown that no research method is
applied universally (Carey, 1994; Gibbs & Lawson, 1992; Chalmers, 1990;
Gjertsen, 1989). The notion of a single scientific method is so pervasive it seems
certain that many students must be disappointed when they discover that
scientists do not have a framed copy of the steps of the scientific method posted
high above each laboratory workbench. Close inspection will reveal that
scientists approach and solve problems with imagination, creativity, prior
knowledge and perseverance. These, of course, are the same methods used by
all problem-solvers. The lesson to be learned is that science is no different from
other human endeavors when puzzles are investigated. Fortunately, this is one
myth that may eventually be displaced since many newer texts are abandoning
or augmenting the list in favor of discussions of methods of science.

Myth 4: Evidence accumulated carefully will result in sure knowledge


All investigators, including scientists, collect and interpret empirical evidence
through the process called induction. This is a technique by which individual
pieces of evidence are collected and examined until a law is discovered or a
theory is invented. Useful as this technique is, even a preponderance of evidence
does not guarantee the production of valid knowledge because of what is called
the problem of induction. Induction was first formalized by Frances Bacon in the
17th century. In his book, Novum Organum (1620/ 1952), Bacon advised that
facts be assimilated without bias to reach a conclusion. The method of induction
he suggested is the principal way in which humans traditionally have produced
generalizations that permit predictions. What then is the problem with induction?
It is both impossible to make all observations pertaining to a given situation and
illogical to secure all relevant facts for all time, past, present and future. However,
only by making all relevant observations throughout all time, could one say that a
final valid conclusion had been made. This is the problem of induction. On a
personal level, this problem is of little consequence, but in science the problem is
significant. Scientists formulate laws and theories that are supposed to hold true
in all places and for all time but the problem of induction makes such a guarantee
impossible. The proposal of a new law begins through induction as facts are
heaped upon other relevant facts. Deduction is useful in checking the validity of
a law. For example, if we postulate that all swans are white, we can evaluate the
law by predicting that the next swan found will also be white. If it is, the law is

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supported, but not proved as will be seen in the discussion of another science
myth. Locating even a single black swan will cause the law to be called into
question. The nature of induction itself is another interesting aspect associated
with this myth. If we set aside the problem of induction momentarily, there is still
the issue of how scientists make the final leap from the mass of evidence to the
conclusion. In an idealized view of induction, the accumulated evidence will
simply result in the production of a new law or theory in a procedural or
mechanical fashion. In reality, there is no such method. The issue is far more
complex – and interesting --than that. The final creative leap from evidence to
scientific knowledge is the focus of another myth of science.

Myth 5: Science and its methods provide absolute proof


The general success of the scientific endeavor suggests that its products must
be valid. However, a hallmark of scientific knowledge is that it is subject to
revision when new information is presented. Tentativeness is one of the points
that differentiates science from other forms of knowledge. Accumulated evidence
can provide support, validation and substantiation for a law or theory, but will
never prove those laws and theories to be true. This idea has been addressed by
Homer and Rubba (1978) and Lopnshinsky (1993). The problem of induction
argues against proof in science, but there is another element of this myth worth
exploring. In actuality, the only truly conclusive knowledge produced by science
results when a notion is falsified. What this means is that no matter what
scientific idea is considered, once evidence begins to accumulate, at least we
know that the notion is untrue. Consider the example of the white swans
discussed earlier. One could search the world and see only white swans, and
arrive at the generalization that "all swans are white. " However, the discovery of
one black swan has the potential to overturn, or at least result in modifications of,
this proposed law of nature. However, whether scientists routinely try to falsify
their notions and how much contrary evidence it takes for a scientist's mind to
change are issues worth exploring.

Myth 6: Science is procedural more than creative


We accept that no single guaranteed method of science can account for the
success of science, but realize that induction, the collection and interpretation of
individual facts providing the raw materials for laws and theories, is at the
foundation of most scientific endeavors. This awareness brings with it a paradox.
If induction itself is not a guaranteed method for arriving at conclusions, how do
scientists develop useful laws and theories? Induction makes use of individual
facts that are collected, analyzed and examined. Some observers may perceive
a pattern in these data and propose a law in response, but there is no logical or
procedural method by which the pattern is suggested. With a theory, the issue is
much the same. Only the creativity of the individual scientist permits the
discovery of laws and the invention of theories. If there truly was a single
scientific method, two individuals with the same expertise could review the same
facts and reach identical conclusions. There is no guarantee of this because the
range and nature of creativity is a personal attribute. Unfortunately, many

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common science teaching orientations and methods serve to work against the
creative element in science. The majority of laboratory exercises, for instance,
are verification activities. The teacher discusses what will happen in the
laboratory, the manual provides step-bystep directions, and the student is
expected to arrive at a particular answer. Not only is this approach the antithesis
of the way in which science actually operates, but such a portrayal must seem
dry, clinical and uninteresting to many students. In her book, They're Not Dumb,
They're Different (1990) Shiela Tobias argues that many capable and clever
students reject science as a career because they are not given an opportunity to
see it as an exciting and creative pursuit. The moral in Tobias' thesis is that
science itself may be impoverished when students who feel a need for a creative
outlet eliminate it as a potential career because of the way it is taught.

Myth 7: Science and its methods can answer all questions.


Philosophers of science have found it useful to refer to the work of Karl Popper
(1968) and his principle of falsifiability to provide an operational definition of
science. Popper believed that only those ideas that are potentially falsifiable are
scientific ideas. For instance, the law of gravity states that more massive objects
exert a stronger gravitational attraction than do objects with less mass when
distance is held constant. This is a scientific law because it could be falsified if
newly-discovered objects operate differently with respect to gravitational
attraction. In contrast, the core idea among creationists is that species were
place on earth fully-formed by some supernatural entity. Obviously, there is no
scientific method by which such a belief could be shown to be false. Since this
special creation view is impossible to falsify, it is not science at all and the term
creation science is an oxymoron. Creation science is a religious belief and as
such, does not require that it be falsifiable. Hundreds of years ago thoughtful
theologians and scientists carved out their spheres of influence and have since
coexisted with little acrimony. Today, only those who fail to understand the
distinction between science and religion confuse the rules, roles, and limitations
of these two important world views. It should now be clear that some questions
simply must not be asked of scientists. During a recent creation science trial for
instance, Nobel laureates were asked to sign a statement about the nature of
science to provide some guidance to the court. These famous scientists
responded resoundingly to support such a statement; after all they were experts
in the realm of science (Klayman, Slocombe, Lehman, & Kaufman, 1986). Later,
those interested in citing expert opinion in the abortion debate asked scientists to
issue a statement regarding their feelings on this issue. Wisely, few participated.
Science cannot answer the moral and ethical questions engendered by the
matter of abortion. Of course, scientists as individuals have personal opinions
about many issues, but as a group, they must remain silent if those issues are
outside the realm of scientific inquiry. Science simply cannot address moral,
ethical, aesthetic, social and metaphysical questions.

14
Myth 8. Scientists are particularly objective
Scientists are no different in their level of objectivity than are other professionals.
They are careful in the analysis of evidence and in the procedures applied to
arrive at conclusions. With this admission, it may seem that this myth is valid, but
contributions from both the philosophy of science and psychology reveal that
there are at least three major reasons that make complete objectivity impossible.
Many philosophers of science support Popper's (1963) view that science can
advance only through a string of what he called conjectures and refutations. In
other words, scientists should propose laws and theories as conjectures and then
actively work to disprove or refute those ideas. Popper suggests that the
absence of contrary evidence, demonstrated through an active program of
refutation, will provide the best support available. It may seem like a strange way
of thinking about verification, but the absence of disproof is considered support.
There is one major problem with the idea of conjecture and refutation. Popper
seems to have proposed it as a recommendation for scientists, not as a
description of what scientists do. From a philosophical perspective the idea is
sound, but there are no indications that scientists actively practice programs to
search for disconfirming evidence. Another aspect of the inability of scientists to
be objective is found in theory-laden observation, a psychological notion
(Hodson, 1986). Scientists, like all observers, hold a myriad of preconceptions
and biases about the way the world operates. These notions, held in the
subconscious, affect everyone's ability to make observations. It is impossible to
collect and interpret facts without any bias. There have been countless cases in
the history of science in which scientists have failed to include particular
observations in their final analyses of phenomena. This occurs, not because of
fraud or deceit, but because of the prior knowledge possessed by the individual.
Certain facts either were not seen at all or were deemed unimportant based on
the scientists's prior knowledge. In earlier discussions of induction, we postulated
that two individuals reviewing the same data would not be expected to reach the
same conclusions. Not only does individual creativity play a role, but the issue of
personal theory-laden observation further complicates the situation. This lesson
has clear implications for science teaching. Teachers typically provide learning
experiences for students without considering their prior knowledge. In the
laboratory, for instance, students are asked to perform activities, make
observations and then form conclusions. There is an expectation that the
conclusions formed will be both self-evident and uniform. In other words,
teachers anticipate that the data will lead all pupils to the same conclusion. This
could only happen if each student had the same exact prior conceptions and
made and evaluate observations using identical schemes. This does not happen
in science nor does it occur in the science classroom. Related to the issue of
theory-based observations is the allegiance to the paradigm. Thomas Kuhn
(1970), in his ground-breaking analysis of the history of science, shows that
scientists work within a research tradition called a paradigm. This research
tradition, shared by those working in a given discipline, provides clues to the
questions worth investigating, dictates what evidence is admissible and
prescribes the tests and techniques that are reasonable. Although the paradigm

15
provides direction to the research it may also stifle or limit investigation. Anything
that confines the research endeavor necessarily limits objectivity. While there is
no conscious desire on the part of scientists to limit discussion, it is likely that
some new ideas in science are rejected because of the paradigm issue. When
research reports are submitted for publication they are reviewed by other
members of the discipline. Ideas from outside the paradigm are liable to be
eliminated from consideration as crackpot or poor science and thus do not
appear in print. Examples of scientific ideas that were originally rejected
because they fell outside the accepted paradigm include the sun-centered solar
system, warm-bloodedness in dinosaurs, the germ-theory of disease, and
continental drift. When first proposed early in this century by Alfred Wegener, the
idea of moving continents, for example, was vigorously rejected. Scientists were
not ready to embrace a notion so contrary to the traditional teachings of their
discipline. Continental drift was finally accepted in the 1960s with the proposal of
a mechanism or theory to explain how continental plates move (Hallam, 1975
and Menard, 1986). This fundamental change in the earth sciences, called a
revolution by Kuhn, might have occurred decades earlier had it not been for the
strength of the paradigm. It would be unwise to conclude a discussion of
scientific paradigms on a negative note. Although the examples provided do
show the contrary aspects associated with paradigm-fixity, Kuhn would argue
that the blinders created by allegiance to the paradigm help keep scientists on
track. His review of the history of science demonstrates that paradigms are
responsible for far more successes in science than delays.

Myth 9: Experiments are the principle route to scientific knowledge


Throughout their school science careers, students are encouraged to associate
science with experimentation. Virtually all hands-on experiences that students
have in science class is called experiments even if it would be more accurate to
refer to these exercises as technical procedures, explorations or activities. True
experiments involve carefully orchestrated procedures along with control and test
groups usually with the goal of establishing a cause and effect relationship. Of
course, true experimentation is a useful tool in science, but is not the sole route
to knowledge. Many note-worthy scientists have used non-experimental
techniques to advance knowledge. In fact, in a number of science disciplines,
true experimentation is not possible because of the inability to control variables.
Many fundamental discoveries in astronomy are based on extensive
observations rather than experiments. Copernicus and Kepler changed our view
of the solar system using observational evidence derived from lengthy and
detailed observations frequently contributed by other scientists, but neither
performed experiments. Charles Darwin punctuated his career with an
investigatory regime more similar to qualitative techniques used in the social
sciences than the experimental techniques commonly associated with the natural
sciences. For his most revolutionary discoveries, Darwin recorded his extensive
observations in notebooks annotated by speculations and thoughts about those
observations. Although Darwin supported the inductive method proposed by
Bacon, he was aware that observation without speculation or prior understanding

16
was both ineffective and impossible. The techniques advanced by Darwin have
been widely used by scientists Goodall and Nossey in their primate studies.
Scientific knowledge is gained in a variety of ways including observation,
analysis, speculation, library investigation and experimentation.

Myth 10: All work in science is reviewed to keep the process honest.
Frequently, the final step in the traditional scientific method is that researchers
communicate their results so that others may learn from and evaluate their
research. When completing laboratory reports, students are frequently told to
present their methods section so clearly that others could repeat the activity. The
conclusion that students will likely draw from this request is that professional
scientists are also constantly reviewing each other's experiments to check up on
each other. Unfortunately, while such a check and balance system would be
useful, the number of findings from one scientist checked by others is vanishingly
small. In reality, most scientists are simply too busy and research funds too
limited for this type of review. The result of the lack of oversight has recently put
science itself under suspicion. With the pressures of academic tenure, personal
competition and funding, it is not surprising that instances of outright scientific
fraud do occur. However, even without fraud, the enormous amount of original
scientific research published, and the pressure to produce new information rather
than reproduce others' work dramatically increases the chance that errors will go
unnoticed. An interesting corollary to this myth is that scientists rarely report
valid, but negative results. While this is understandable given the space
limitations in scientific journals, the failure to report what did not work is a
problem. Only when those working in a particular scientific discipline have access
to all of the information regarding a phenomenon -- both positive and negative –
can the discipline progress.

Conclusions
If, in fact, students and many of their teachers hold these myths to be true, we
have strong support for a renewed focus on science itself rather than just its facts
and principles in science teaching and science teacher education. This is one of
the central messages in both of the new science education projects. Benchmarks
for Science Literacy (AAAS, 1993) and the National Science Education
Standards (National Research Council, 1994) project both strongly suggest that
school science must give students an opportunity to experience science
authentically, free of the legends, misconceptions and idealizations inherent in
the myths about the nature of the scientific enterprise. There must be increased
opportunity for both preservice and inservice teachers to learn about and apply
the real rules of the game of science accompanied by careful review of textbooks
to remove the "creeping fox terriers" that have helped provide an inaccurate view
of the nature of science. Only by clearing away the mist of half-truths and
revealing science in its full light, with knowledge of both its strengths and
limitations, will learners become enamored of the true pageant of science and be
able fairly to judge its processes and products. Note: William McComas' address

17
is School of Education-WPH 1001E, University of Southern California, Los
Angeles, CA 90089-0031.

References

American Association for the Advancement of Science (1993). Benchmarks for


science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bacon, F. (1952). The new organon. In R. M. Hutchins, (Ed.), Great Books of the
Western World: Vol. 30. The Works of Francis Bacon (pp. 107-195) Chicago:
Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. (Original work published in 1620).

Campbell, N. (1953). What is science? New York: Dover Publications.

Campbell, J. (1968). The hero with a thousand faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press.

Carey, S. S. (1994). A beginners guide to scientific method Belmont, CA:


Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Chaikin, A. (1994). A man on the moon: The voyages of the Apollo astronauts.
New York: Viking Press.

Chalmers, A. (1990). Science and its fabrication. Minneapolis, MN: University of


Minnesota Press.

Cole, K.C. (1986, March 23). Things your teacher never told you about science:
Nine shocking revelations! The Newsday Magazine, 21-27.

Gibbs, A. and Lawson, A. E. (1992). The nature of scientific thinking as reflected


by the work of biologists and by biology textbooks. American Biology Teacher, 54
(3), 137-152.

Gjertsen, D. (1989). Science and philosophy past and present. New York:
Penguin Books.

Gould, S. J. (1988). The case of the creeping fox terrier clone. Natural History,
96(1), 16-24.

Hallam, A. (1975). Alfred Wegener and the hypothesis of continental drift.


Scientific American, 252(2), 88-97.

Hodson, D. (1986). The mature of scientific observation. School Science Review,


58(242), 17-28.

18
Horner, J. K. & Rubba, P. A. (1979) The laws are mature theories fable. The
Science Teacher,46(2), 31.

Horner, J. K. & Rubba, P. A. (1978) The myth of absolute truth. The Science
Teacher, 45(1), 29-30.

Klayman, R. A., Slocombe, W. B., Lehman, J. S. and Kaufman, B.S. (1986).


Amicus curiae brief of 72 Nobel laureates, 17 state academies of science, and 7
other scientific organizations, in support of appellees. Edwards v. Aguillard, 85
U.S. 1513.

Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions, (2nd ed.). Chicago:


University of Chicago Press.

Lopushinsky, T. (1993). Does science deal in truth? The Journal of College


Science Teaching, 23(3), 208.

Medawar. P. B. (1963). Is the scientific paper a fraud? In P. B. Medawar. The


Threat and the Glory. (pp. 228-233). New York: HarperCollins.

Menard, H. W. (1986). The ocean of truth: A personal history of global tectonics.


Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

National Research Council (1994). National science education standards (Draft).


Washington, DC: Author.

Newton, I. (1946). Sir Isaac Newton's mathematical principles of natural


philosophy and his system of the world. (A. Motte, Transl. revised and appendix
supplied by F. Cajori). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (Original work
published in 1720).

Pearson,. K. (1937). The grammar of science. London: Dutton.

Popper, K. R. (1968). The logic of scientific discovery, (2nd ed. revised). New
York: Harper Torchbooks.

Popper, K. R. (1963). Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific


knowledge. New York: Harper and Row.

Rhodes, G. and Schaible (1989). Fact, law, and theory: Ways of thinking in
science and literature. Journal of College Science Teaching, 18(4), 228-232 &
288.

Rothman, M. A. (1992). The science gap. Buffalo: Prometheus Books.


Sonleitner, F. J. (1989, Nov/Dec). Theories, laws and all that. National Center for
Science Education, Newsletter, 9(6), 3-4.

19
Tobias, S. (1990). They're not dumb, they're different: Stalking the second tier.
Tucson, AZ: The Research Corporation.

Week 2

THE METRIC SYSTEM

A quantitative measurement system has been developed that is used in most of


the world. It is called the International System or, more commonly, the metric
system. The metric system was designed to relate mass, distance, and volume
for one substance – pure water. This is how it works. Imagine a small box is
exactly one centimeter long, one centimeter wide, and one centimeter high. Its
volume is one cubic centimeter (cc). If water is added to this container until it is
full, that amount of water would be one millimeter and have a mass of one gram.
This assumes that water is at a standard (normal) temperature and a standard
(normal) air pressure.

The metric system is based on multiples of ten. This makes it very easy to
change from one to another and makes it easier to use very large or small
numbers.

The basic units of the metric system are the liter, a measure of volume; the
meter, a measure of distance; the gram, a measure of mass; and degrees
Celsius, a measure of temperature.

Prefix Quantity Symbol Example

kilo 1000 k 1 kilogram = 1000 grams


1 kg = 1000 g

hector 100 h 1 hectogram = 100 grams


1 hg = 100 g

deca 10 dk 1 decagram = 10 grams


1 dkg = 10 g

base unit 1 g, l, m 1 gram = 1 g


1 liter = 1 L
1 meter = 1 m

deci 0.1 (1/10) d 1 decigram = 0.1 grams


1 dg = 0.1 grams

centi 0.01(1/100) c 1 centigram = 0.01 grams


1 cg = 0.01 g

20
milli 0.001(1/1000) m 1 milligram = 0.001 grams
1 mg = 0.01 g

Some exercise…

Change the following numbers to the appropriate units of measurements.

6.2 kilograms = ___________grams


78.36 liters = __________millimeters
12.3 meters = __________centimeters
3.2 meters = ___________kilometers
76.3 millimeters = __________centimeters
143.2 meters = ___________millimeters
312 grams = ______________grams
15.3 millimeters = ______________liters
7.5 grams = ___________milligrams
62.1 meters = __________centimeters
53.5 liters = ____________milliliters
12.3 kilometers = _____________meters
79.4 millimeters = _______________liters
43.9 milligrams = ____________kilograms
67.2 meters = ____________kilometers

Write the names of the basic metric units used to measure each of the following
numbered items. Then, next to each lettered item, tell which subunit of these
measurements would be most practical to use.

Distance
a. From home to school ____________________________________
b. Length of the classroom __________________________________
c. Width of this page _______________________________________

Volume
a. Volume of a large jug ____________________________________
b. Liquid medicine ________________________________________

Mass
a. Your mass ____________________________________________
b. Mass of a pin __________________________________________

Week 4 (Activity 1)
CANDLE ACTIVITY

Materials:

21
• Candle
• Lighter

Make qualitative and quantitative measurements of a small candle both before


and after it has burned for two minutes. Anchor the candle in a ball of modeling
clay.

Qualitative Observations

Before burning ____________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

During burning ____________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

After burning _____________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Quantitative Observations

Observations Before Burning After Burning

How does the two types of observations differ from one another?

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Which one is more appropriate for use with scientific observations? Why?

22
________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

(Activity 2)

ELEPHANT OBSERVATIONS

Long time ago in a distant land, six blind men lived together. All of them had
heard of elephants, but they had never “seen” one. When they heard that an
elephant and his trainer would be visiting their village, they all wanted an
encounter with this beast. They made their way to the site where the elephant
was being kept. Each blind man touched the elephant and made his
observations. The observations are listed below.

One man touched the elephant’s side and said.

“ An elephant is like a wall.”

Another man touched the trunk and said,

“An elephant is like a snake.”

Another man touched a tusk and said,

“An elephant is like a spear.”

Another man touched a leg and said,

“An elephant is like a fan.”

The last man touched the tail and said,

“An elephant is like a rope.”

23
• Did the blind men make appropriate inferences? Explain.

________________________________________________________________

• How might the blind men improve their inferences?

________________________________________________________________

• One of the characteristics of science is that scientists communicate their


ideas, observation, results, and inferences with each other. Why is this a
good idea?
________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

In the space below, write a sentence or two explaining what you have learned.

Qualitative Observations

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Quantitative Observations

________________________________________________________________

Did the activities above help you to make better observations? Explain.

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

24
How does telling stories can make teaching more fun to primary students?

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)
3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of observing?
(5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

Week 5 (Activity 3)
CLASSIFYING BUTTONS

Materials:

• 8 different types of buttons

25
Methods:

1. Place the eight buttons in the box at the top of the chart on the next page.

2. Trace around the buttons and color them.

3. Divide the buttons into two groups in the boxes below the large box at the top.

4. Trace around the buttons and color them. In the boxes, write the property you

used to sort the buttons.

5. Group the buttons from each box into the two boxes below each box.

6. Trace around the buttons and color them. Write the property you used to sort

the buttons.

7. Place one button in each of the boxes at the attachment sheet.

8. Trace around each button and color it. In the boxes, write the properties of
each button.

Answer the following questions:

• By going through the primary science curriculum specifications, list the


topics that you think are important to do classification?

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

• What are the ways in which things can be classified?

________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

26
1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)

3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of classifying?
(5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

Week 6

COMMUNICATION ACTIVITIES

27
Gossip is an interesting game that helps improve communication skills. You
could start the game by having the students form a circle. Then you give a short
written message to one of the students. The student reads the message and
whispers it once to his or her neighbour, who in turn passes the message along
verbally. When the message has gone around the circle, the last student says
the message aloud. Compare the original message with it. This could lead to a
discussion of how we receive information. Perhaps it would be possible to visit a
radio or television or newspaper office. If that’s possible, maybe they have a
speaker that could visit your class

Labels communicate! Bring food wrappers to class. Find out the contents of
junk foods or any other food that comes in it. What other products have labels?
What does the label tell about the product?

Advertisements are another form of communication. Have your students study


different advertisements from different sources: television, magazines,
newspapers etc. What are they communicating? Are there hidden images?

Week 7
PREDICTING

28
WHY IS PREDICTING IMPORTANT

A predicting is a forecast of what a future observation might be. The ability to


construct dependable predictions about objects and events allows us to
determine appropriate behavior towards our environment. Predicting is closely
related to observing, inferring, and classifying: an excellent example of a skill in
one process being dependent on the skills acquired in other processes.
Prediction is based on careful observation and the inferences made about
relationships between observed events. Remember that inferences are
explanations or interpretations of observations and that inferences are supported
by observations. Classification is employed when we identify observed
similarities or differences to impact order to objects and events. Order in our
environment permits us to recognize patterns and to predict from the patterns
what future observations will be.

Children need to learn to ask such questions as If this happens, what will follow?
What will happen if I do this? As teachers, we need to be very careful about the
kinds of predictions we make about student behavior and performance.

DISTINGUISHING AMONG OBSERVATION, INFERENCE, AND PREDICTION

The following brief definitions may help you distinguish among observation,
inference, and prediction.

• Information gained through the senses: Observation


• Why it happened: Inference
• What I expect to observe in the future: Prediction

The following activity is intended to give you practice in distinguishing among


these important processes. Read the first two frames of the cartoon and the
statements that follow: Indicate whether each statement is an observation,
inference, or prediction. (Take the point of view of the cartoon characters)

29
1. In about two minutes that mountain is going to blow sky-high.__________

2. I can feel the rumbling (earth vibrating) beneath my feet.______________

3. The rumbling is caused by the volcano.___________________________

Was the prediction based on careful and comprehensive observation? How


much confidence do you have in this prediction? To see how the cartoon turns
out, look blow.

30
Answers

Compare your answers with someone else’s or check your answers with those
below.

1. Prediction (A forecast of what a future observation will be.)


2. Observation (Information gained through the senses.)
3. Inference (An explanation for the observation.)

The process skills of observing, inferring, and predicting can be clearly defined
and each is clearly distinguishable from the others. You will see later that there
is also a great deal interdependence among these processes.

We make sense of the world around us by observing things happen and then
interpreting and explaining them. We often detect patterns in what we observe.
When we think we can explain why things work the way they do, we construct
mental models in our heads that at least temporarily serve to provide order to
things. Often we use these mental models to predict occurrences that might
happen in the future. Here are some examples of predictions:

• I see it is raining and the sun is coming out. There could be a rainbow.
• When I flip the switch the lamp will light.
• The weak magnet picked up five paper clips; I predict the strong magnet
will pick up more.
• If I release both balls at the same time, they will hit the ground at the
same time.

Notice that each of the sample predictions is written in future tense. Each
prediction statement is based on observations and patterns that have developed
from past observations. How we explain and how we interpret what we observe
affect how we predict.

A map of the process of predicting might look something like this:

PREDICTING

OBSERVING INFERRING

31
Predictions are reasoned statements based not only on what we observe but
also on the mental models we have constructed to explain what we observe.
Predictions are not just wild guesses because guessing is often based on little or
no evidence.

In order to use the process skills of observing, inferring and predicting correctly
you need to be able to clearly distinguish among them. The previous activity was
intended to provide you with some brief working definitions and to give you
practice in distinguishing among observation, inferring and predicting.

SENSATIONAL SLIME

Materials:

• polyvinyl alcohol
• borax
• paper cups of two different prints or colors
• hot plate
• large coffee can in which to heat solution
• large spoon to stir
• tongue depressors to stir mixed solutions
• graduated cylinder
• 1000 ml beaker
• water
• food coloring
• paper
• pencil

Method:

1. Teacher prepares two solutions, (prepare early in the morning for


afternoon use), following the directions below:

Solution 1:

40 grams polyvinyl alcohol in 1000 ml water. Heat the water until just too
hot too touch, then gradually sprinkle the polyvinyl alcohol powder into the
water while stirring continuously. Continue heating and stirring until the
solution is clear and then for two more hours.

Solution 2:

32
8 grams of borax dissolved in 200 ml of water.

A. In a graduated cylinder, measure 40 ml of polyvinyl alcohol; dilute


with 10 ml of water to give a total of 50 ml. Pour the polyvinyl
alcohol/water mixture into a paper cup and stir thoroughly.
B. Add one drop of your favorite color of food coloring to each cup of
the above mixture and stir.
C. In a small graduated cylinder, combine 5 ml of borax solution with 5
ml of water and mix thoroughly. Pour into a different paper cup.
2. Predict in writing what will happen when these two solutions are mixed.
3. After giving each pair of students a cup of the polyvinyl alcohol solution
and a cup of the borax solution, have one student stir the polyvinyl alcohol
solution continuously and vigorously while the other student adds the
borax solution. The mixture will thicken, but continue to stir until the slime
is uniform.
4. Record their observations on paper.
5. Remove slime from the paper cup and observe its properties, (does it
stretch, bounce, etc.?). Record observations after each experiment.
6. Draw conclusions regarding gelatin and properties they have observed in
the slime and record.

Discussion:

1. List down your predictions, observations, and conclusions on the board.


Discuss data.

2. Decide how slime is alike and different from gelatin, (ie. Jello)

Week 8( Activity 4)

MEASURING AND USING NUMBERS

MIXING WATER ACTIVITY

Materials:

• Thermometer
• Cold water
• Hot water
• Warm water
• Graduated cylinders
• Container for mixing
• Worksheet

33
Before doing the experiment, predict the answers to the following questions:

• What do you think will happen if equal parts of 10ºC and 60ºC water were
mixed?

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

• What would make a pool containing 22ºC water feel cool on one day and
warm on another?

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

• What do you think causes your temperature to rise when you are sick?
Can you lower your temperature by having a cold drink? Why or why not?

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

Method:

1. Measure 40ml of cool water and 40ml of warm water in separate graduated
cylinders.

2. Record the temperature of each in the table below.

3. Mix the cool and warm water together. Record the temperature of the
mixture.

4. Repeat the steps above for the remaining combinations as specified in the
table.

Amount of water Temperature of Temperature of Temperature of


Cool Water Warm Water Mixed Water

40ml of cool water


and

34
40ml of warm water

30ml of cool water


and
50ml of warm water

20ml of cool water


and
60ml of warm water

10ml of cool water


and
70ml of warm water

Were your results what you expected? Why or why not?

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)

3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of measuring and
using numbers? (5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

35
Week 9

MAKING A SUN CLOCK

Before there were clocks, people used shadow to tell time

Materials:

• Chalk
• A4 paper
• Plasticine

Method:

1. Place your chalk stand up in the middle of the paper using the plasticine.

2. Mark the shadow of the pencil every hour until you get at least 8 readings.

3. From your results, construct a graph that represents the time versus the
length of the shadow.

From the graph, answer the following:

1. What time did the shadow disappear?

2. When was the shadow became longer than the pencil?

36
Week 10 (Activity 6)
INFERRING EXERCISES

Read the following observations. Then make inferences that explain each
observation. Remember, there may be more than one logical explanation.

Observation 1: You observe that the sky at noon is darkening.

Your inference:___________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Observation 2: You principal interrupts class and call a student from the room.

Your inference:___________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Observation 3: All middle school students are bringing lunch from home.

Your inference:___________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Observation 4: A former rock-and-roll band member has poor hearing.

Your inference:___________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Observation 5: You leave a movie theater and see that the street is wet.

Your inference:____________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Observation 6: During a handshake, you feel that the palm of the individual’s
hand is rough and hard.

Your inference:____________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

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Observation 7: The classroom lights are off.

Your inference:____________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Observation 8: A siren is heard going past the school.

Your inference:____________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)

3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of inferring?
(5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

38
Week 11 (Activity 7)

IDENTIFYING AND CONTROLLING VARIABLES

Materials: (for each group of four)

• 4 sugar cubes
• Coarse sugar
• 4 beakers
• paper towels or sponges
• 2 spoons of different sizes,
• Stopwatches

Methods:

1. Each should be given 4 sugar cubes, 4 beakers, and 2 spoons.


2. Pour 100 ml of tap water into each beaker simultaneously.
3. Dissolve each cube of sugar in the beakers. In one beaker there will be a
cube and water, one will have a cube, spoon (for stirring), and water, another
will have coarse sugar and water, and the last will have coarse sugar, spoon
(for stirring), and water.
4. Students predict which container will have the fastest rate of dissolving by
using stop watch.
5. Talk about predictions (it's okay to have wrong predictions--happens all the
time), graph the results of the experiments.

Are there different results? Were all the methods of experimentation the same?
Explain.

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

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Brainstorm a number of manipulated/independent variables that could have had
an effect upon the results of your experiment (the rate of dissolution). Put
suggestions on a chart.

Independent Variable Prediction Exp. Notes Observation


spoon size . . .
amount of water . . .
placement of spoon . . .
old vs. new cubes . . .
different solvents . . .

You may find some discrepancies in the above experiment. How would you
suggest to make the experiment a better one? Discuss.

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Activity 8

Helicopter Happening

40
Materials:

• Scissors
• Ruler
• Worksheet
• Helicopter pattern on next page

Method:

1. Carefully cut out the pattern for the rotating object and follow the assembly
directions.

2. Test the device to find how it works.

Record your observations and inferences

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

What are some possible variables that could affect how it flies?

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

41
Rotating Object for “Helicopter Happening”

42
Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)

3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of identifying and
controlling variables? (5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

Week 12 (Activity 9)

DEFINING VARIABLES OPERATIONALLY

1. A teacher is interested in investigating the effect of homework on test


results. What are the two operational definitions for the variable
“homework?”
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

2. A shopkeeper wants to find out if window posters affect sales. Give two
operational definitions of the variable “window posters.”
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

43
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

3. A student wants to measure which pizza toppings her friends prefer. What
is an operational definition of the variable “pizza topping preference?”

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

(Activity 9)

What is an Operational Definition?

۞ One of the most important operational decisions a scientist must make is to


determine how measurement of the variable will be made. The method used to
measure a variable is called an operational definition. An operational definition
indicates the way a measurement will be performed. Once a scientist has
decided on a method, that method must be reported to other scientists, so they
can also test the investigation results. Any scientist can read an operational
definition and easily understand or perform the same measurement. The
examples below shoe operational definitions of variables.

Examples One

A student wants to test the effects of vitamin C on the health of students in her
class. The variables ”health of students” could be defined in the following ways.
• The number of colds experienced during a month
• The number of days absent due to sickness in a month
• The number of people with coughs in a month

44
Example Two
A student wants to test the effect of “don’t Litter” posters on the trash problem at
his school. The variable “trash problem” could be defined in the following ways.
• The number of candy wrappers on the playground
• The number of bags of trash collected
• The number of aluminium cans in the courtyard

Your task is to think of operational definitions that might be used to measure


variables in several situations. Before you begin, let’s look at an example.

A student wants to measure the absorbency of paper towels, so absorbency is


the variable. The student must create an operational definition for measuring the
absorbency of paper towels. He develops three possible operational definitions.

• The Dunk: Measure the amount of water that remains after a crumpled
paper towel has been placed in 25 ml of water for five minutes.
• The Pour: Measure the amount of water that collects after 25 ml of water
has been poured through a crumpled paper towel.
• The Lift: Measure the height that water reaches after the end of a folded
towel has been inserted in water for 15 minutes.

Think of operational definitions that might be used to measure variables in the


following situations.

1. A student is interested in magnets. He wants to measure the strength of


his favourite magnet.
Operational Definition of the variable “magnet strength”
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

45
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

2. A student is interested in investigating the germination (sprouting) of


seeds.
Operational Definition of the variable “germination”
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

3. A student wants to measure which soft drink her classmates prefer.


Operational definition of the variable “soft drink preference”
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

4. A student wants to find out how interested her classmates are in reading
books about science.
Operational definition of the variable “interesting reading books about
science”
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

5. A student wants to find out if study affects science grades.


Operational definition of the variable “study”

46
___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

Operational definition of the variable “science grade”


___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)

3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of defining
operationally? (5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

The following investigation contains operational definitions for a variable.


Identify the variable and the operational definitions for the variable.
A study was done to determine the effect of distance running on breathing rate.
Student ran different distances and the rate of breathing was measured. One
group ran ¼ km, a second group ran ½ km, and a third group ran 1 km.

47
Immediately after running, breathing rate was checked by counting the number of
breaths taken in one minute.
Variable_________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________
Operational definition
________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________
Operational definition
________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________

Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)

3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of defining
operationally? (5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

48
Week 13
INTERPRETING DATA

Data Three Ways

Activity 1 – Compare the following sets of data below. Then tell which data set
communicates the information better. Give reasons for your choice.

Data Set Number One

Our sun has a surface temperature of about 5538ºC. The innermost planet is
Mercury. It has a surface temperature of about 327ºC. The next planet, Venus,
has a surface temperature of about 482ºC. Our home planet Earth is next. Its
surface temperature is about 14ºC. Mars is the fourth planet and its surface
temperature is about -23ºC. Jupiter comes after Mars. Jupiter has a surface
temperature of about -151ºC. Saturn is next with a surface temperature of about
-184ºC. Uranus is after Saturn. Its surface temperature is about -207ºC. Next is
Neptune whose surface temperature is about -223ºC. Pluto is the outermost
planet. It is so far away from the sun that its surface temperature has not been
measured but it is estimated to be about -230 ºC.

Data Set Number Two


● ●
Sun Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
5538ºC 327 ºC 428 ºC 14 ºC -23ºC -151ºC -184ºC -207ºC -223ºC -230ºC

Which set of data communicates information more easily?

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

What are the weaknesses and strength of each?

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

49
Data Set Number Three

Both the paragraph of information and the pictorial representation presented the
same data. Another way to show data is to use tables and charts.

Create a data table for the information presented about the planets.

Planet’s Position from Sun Surface Temperature


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

Discuss why data tables are a good way for an investigator to present data for
interpretation.

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Week 14 (Activity 10)

FORMULATING AND TESTING HYPOTHESIS

Write hypothesis for the following.

1. Manipulated Variable: length of paper helicopter blades.

50
Responding Variable: rotational speed
Hypothesis__________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

2. Manipulated Variable: length of string telephone.


Responding Variable: clarity of sound
Hypothesis__________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

3. Manipulated Variable: baseball batting practice


Responding Variable: batting average
Hypothesis__________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

4. Manipulated Variable: temperature of solution


Responding Variable: dissolving time of powdered drink mix
Hypothesis__________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

5. Manipulated Variable: depth of lake


Responding Variable: water temperature
Hypothesis__________________________________________________

Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

51
2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)

3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of formulating and
testing hypothesis? (5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

Week 15 (Activity 11)

EXPERIMENTING

PENDULUM EXPERIMENT

Materials:

• String
• Ring stand
• Washers (or any object that can be used to vary mass)
• Meter stick
• Second hand
• Worksheet (on next page)
• Experiment report model
• Experiment report

A pendulum is an object connected to a fixed point by a string, wire, or rope.


When set in motion, a pendulum swings back and forth. You have heard about
Galileo and Foucault, whose pendulum experiments made important
contributions to science. Visualize a pendulum. What variables might affect its
swing? List them below..

Variable 1 _______________________________________________________

52
Variable 2 _______________________________________________________

Variable 3 _______________________________________________________

Design a series of experiments that will test how each of the variables listed
above might affect a pendulum’s swing or frequency. The frequency of a
pendulum is the time it takes to make a complete cycle (from starting point back
to starting point). You will need at least three experiments – one for each
variable. This will require you to write a hypothesis for each experiment.
Controlling all variables not being tested is extremely important in this series of
experiments.

Mastery of Knowledge
At the end of these activities, answer the following questions:

1. What have you learnt from these activities? (5 marks)

2. Which part of the primary science curriculum teaches this particular topic?
(5 marks)

3. Discuss how you can use these activities in your teaching and learning?
(5 marks)

4. Creativity is an important element of Thinking and Working Scientifically.


What are the creative characteristics in the process skill of experimenting?

(5 marks)

5. In developing children’s ability to think and work scientifically, there are a


number of techniques a teacher could do to encourage the development of
creativity. Discuss some of these things you can do? (5 marks)

(Task 3)
Your Own Investigation

Here is an opportunity to apply all the science process skills you have learned.
You are required to work in pairs or in a group of not more than three. You will

53
ask an original question and conduct an experiment or survey to answer that
question.

Your task

1. Ask a question about a physical or biological event or relationship. Make


sure the topic offers the potential for experimentation. Consumer testing
is a good area for first-time projects. The best topics can arise from your
hobbies, interests, activities, and skills.

2. Decide whether you will perform an experiment or a survey.

3. Complete the experiment plan and approval or survey plan and approval.
Meet with your lecturer to discuss your plan and get final approval.

4. List the potential variables. Choose a manipulated variable and a


responding variable. Operationally define the variables so they can be
measured.

5. Write a specific research question.

6. Write a hypothesis that provide an exact focus for the experiment.

7. Conduct a library research and write a review of the literature about your
topic. A literature review summarizes information about your topic into a
report.

8. Design an experiment to collect data that will answer the research


question and hypotheses. Remember to control all variables except the
manipulated and responding variables.

9. Write the procedure for your experiment. You will probably want to build
in more than one test of variables. You may want to repeat the same
experiment several times. With repeat testing, you will have more
confidence in your findings.

10. Gather materials.

11. Do the experiment. Remember, more data is better than less data.

12. Compile the results. Quantitative data should be recorded in data tables

and you will want to include graphs to help with interpretation. Don’t
forget to record qualitative data also.

54
13. Interpret the data. Write conclusions, inferences, and discussion. Make
recommendations. Don’t be too general. For example, if you test only
one type of radish seed, your interpretation must refer to only that variety
of radish seed.

14. Prepare a final report. Use the experiment or survey report. You will be
held accountable for all critical information and techniques.

Common Problems in Student Experiments

• Low sample size


• Lack of control of everything but the manipulated and responding
variables.
• Inaccurate measurement.
• Experimenter bias. Keep an open mind.
• Population selection bias.

Suggestions For Your Topic

• How many seed are found in common types of fruits?


• How does the shape of a container affect the evaporation rate of liquids?
• Which pill design – tablet, caplet, or capsule – dissolve faster?
• Which bottle designs are most childproof or tamperproof?
• Which heats liquids faster – gas, electric, or microwave heat sources?
• How do mealworms respond to selected stimuli, such as temperature,
odor, or light?
• How does colour affect the surface temperature of construction paper?
• What percent of a dissolving antacid tablet is a gas?

Experiment Plan and Approval

Investigation Topic
Manipulated Variable
Responding Variable
Research Question
Hypothesis
Data Collection Plan
How many trials will be used in your experiment?
How will you control all variables except the manipulated and responding
variable?
What special equipment will you need?
Lecturer’s Approval ________________________________________________
Experiment Report Model

55
Title: Write the name of your investigation.

Research Question: Communicate what variables or relationship between


variables will be investigated.

Manipulated Variable: Write the manipulated variable and its operational


definition.

Responding Variable: Write the responding variable and its operational


definition.

Hypothesis or Hypotheses.: Communicate your predictions about how the


manipulated variable will affect the responding variable.

Plan or procedure: Communicate a step-by-step process for completing the


experiment. Include materials, time-tables, and any other information that is
important to the investigation. The plan should be detailed enough for another
investigator to duplicate the experiment.

Controlled Variable(s): Identify all factors that must be controlled to limit


sources of error.

Observations, Data Tables, Graphs: Include qualitative observations.

Conclusion(s): Write factual summaries about what happened.

Inference(s) about Conclusion(s): Interpret, explain, and discuss the


relationship between the variables. What knowledge was gained and what does
it mean?

Recommendation(s): What subsequent actions could or should be taken. Also,


suggest methods for improving the experimental techniques.

Survey Plan and Approval

56
Investigation Topic
Population to be Surveyed
Area to be Surveyed
Sampling Method
Variables
Research Question
Hypothesis / Hypotheses
Data Collection Plan
How will you control variables?
Lecturer’s Approval_________________________________

SURVEY REPORT

Name of Survey
Research Question
Variables
Population to be Surveyed
Area to be Surveyed
Sampling Method
Hypothesis
Plan / Procedures

57