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THE CONTINUUM - HOW MANY? HOW MUCH?

Purpose
There are many occasions when the subject under examination in Science is a matter of
opinion. This can range from ethical and moral issues (such as the ethics of cloning) to
relating to the sufficiency of evidence in an investigation. The opinions of the group can be
placed along a continuum.

There are a number of ways that the continuum idea can be approached, several of which are
considered below. All are based on the idea of a linear continuum.

Pupils need to be told the end points of the continuum.

For example, at one end of the continuum:
“The evidence in this set of results is sufficient”;
or “Nuclear energy is the way forward”;
or “Abortion is acceptable”

and at the other end of the continuum (representing the opposite end of the opinion
spectrum):
“The evidence in this set of results is insufficient”;
or “Nuclear energy has no part to play in solving our energy problems”;
or “Abortion is unacceptable in all situations”.

Instructions
Method 1- Line of least resistance

■ Pupils can position themselves along the line according to their opinion.
■ Pupils then have to justify their position to the rest of the class.

Method 2 – Velcro line of least resistance

Here the continuum is represented by a Velcro strip.
■ Pupils use two name cards which they place on the continuum to illustrate their position
on the line at the beginning of the discussion and then after teaching and discussion.
■ Pupils could then justify large movements in opinion.
Method 3 - Chat split

■ Where a dichotomy of opinion exists, position the class as before then split into two
camps (or 4 or 6 according to need).
■ Each group then discusses their position and produces three bullet points on a flip chart
to justify their answer.

Method 4 - Mexican wave

■ Pupils line up shoulder to shoulder at RANDOM POINTS along the line.
■ By discussion with their neighbours ONLY, they decide if they should swap places to the
right or left.
■ When all discussions are complete, pupils present a 3-sentence summary of their
position.
■ The sentences are read out in order. Progression across the continuum should be
evident.

Method 5 - Velcro frenzy

Here again the continuum is represented by a Velcro strip.
■ Pupils are given cards, that are part of a sequence eg an experimental procedure, events
in the menstrual cycle etc.
■ Each pupil sticks their card on to the continuum, at the most appropriate place.
■ Pupils are given the opportunity to move cards after they have seen the 'Big Picture'.
■ Pupils can record the survey and discuss the 'Big Picture'.