<Life science concepts: Organisms, Behavior, Diversity, Adaptation, Reproduction, Life cycles, Heredity, Micro-organisms, and Disease
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Scientific Investigation
Science Inquiry
Experiments (Ethnographic & Experimental)
Inquiry related misconceptions & concepts

See more science misconceptions & concepts:

Science Standards archives

Organization of information

Topic

Misconceptions - Initial perceptual naive ideas for all ages
(Explanations for people's misconceptions: naive understandings & perceptual responses)

Beginning concepts (preschool - 7 years)

Intermediate concepts (7 years - 11 years)

Literate concepts (11+)

Educator notes

 

 

Introduction

Science investigation (inquiry) is the process people and scientists use to discover information about our world.

Inquiry (process) starts with wondering questions about our world. Questions for which answers can be supported with evidence (observation and facts). Evidence that suggests cause and effect. Observations (evidence) by watching the natural world or observations (evidence) by manipulating objects to create and observe interactions (experiment). In both cases people make observations to gather evidence and create reasons about those observations to suggest explanations about the natural world.

The inquiry process and all aspects of it are evaluated to determine accuracy or inaccuracy, which varifies or refutes conclusions. Repeated verification increases certainty in the results and conclusion. The lack of verification, refutes the conclusions. Consistent and persistent evidence convinces and establishes greater belief in correctness. Without consistent and persistent results, things will not work as expected, which is necessary to apply what we learn, generate more ideas, and integrate ideas; all for oour benefit and survival.

Two kinds of scientific investigation or inquiry are known as:

  1. Ethnographic and
  2. Experimental
  • Each used to understand the world.
  • Both are general procedures that can be implemented in diverse and multiple ways to better understand our world.
  • Neither, needs to be thought of as a strict recipe that must be followed.

The following information identifies misconceptions for all ages and concepts at three levels: beginning, intermediate, and literate for science investigations.

Lastly, science inquiry, while not having any particular order, science inquiry, investigation, and experimentation, often involve similar elements. The following seven elements have been identified as very important to develop and to know along with some of their related concepts.

  1. A person designs and conducts the scientific investigation.
  2. Create a question / hypothesis, a procedure to implement, that result in observations to use as results.
  3. Results are observable evidence that are used with reasoning to predict and explain.
  4. Results are recorded and communicated.
  5. Results / data / descriptions are analyzed and interpreted to create explanations.
  6. Conclusions are determined.
  7. Mathematics and other tools that are frequently useful in scientific inquiry.

Inquiry & investigations

Misconceptions - Initial perceptual naive (any age)
(Explanations for people's misconceptions: naive understandings & perceptual responses)

  1. Ideas for understanding the world just come to people without systemtic thinking through a mysterious creative process that is inherited not learned.
  2. Scientific ideas are created solely with creativity and intellect (missing observation as critical element).
  3. Inquiry is a collection of information that explains how the natural world functions.
  4. A cookbook approach of following a receipe is scientific inquiry.
  5. The world exists according to human's needs, interests, and/ or desires.
  6. The natural world exists in a state that has not changed much since its creation and will exist in a similar state forever.
  7. Natural processes/ events are initiated and controlled by spiritual entities.
  8. Understanding comes from just watching everything in a natural state.
  9. Science is done in labs and not in the real world.
  10. Personal status by itself confers authority to define, interpret, and change knowledge.
  11. Knowledge is static and unchanging.
  12. There is always an explanation for everything.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

Overview

Young students many times experiment to confirm their prejudices and beliefs. They generally use no logical experiment, no attempt for a fair test or no attempt to control variables. They tend to focus on one aspect that may or may not relate to what they are trying to confirm and use illogical or transductive reasoning to support their beliefs.

  • Selectively observe or manipulate observation to support their belief.
  • Focus on cause and effect or before and after. Simple one to one corresondence.

Concepts

  1. Observations can be used to answer questions about the world.
  2. All people can invent ideas and things.
  3. When doing science it is helpful to work with other people.
  4. When working with other people each person should reach their own conclusions.
  5. We can learn from observing objects: living and non-living (plants and animals).
  6. Care must be taken to care for living organisms in the classroom.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

Overview

As students mature they are more able to identify variables and develop an understanding for the need to control variables for a fair experiment or for a fair test. This is a good time to introduce the idea of an investigation as a "fair-test". This may start with the idea of fair play and is a useful analogy to introduce experimental science in the primary grades.

  • Understanding that properties can be thought of as variables - having the property of being able to have specific limited categorical value or infinite continuous value.
  • Can identify variables as having various effects on an outcome from none or little to a lot or being the determining factor of a particular results or set of results.
  • Seek a fair test.
  • Can identify independent and dependent variables when prompted.
  • Recognize advantages to control variables in an experiment.

Concepts

  1. Observations are used as evidence to create explanations as answers to questions.
  2. Learning better ways to observe and procedures to collect observational information, thinking about objects, their properties, and how they interact can suggests ways to identify and manipulate variables to collect evidence to think about when creating explanations.
  3. Investigation is an adventure that has been enjoyed by people everywhere and for all time.
  4. Investigation involves all kinds of people.
  5. Investigative discoveries can become available to everyone in the world.
  6. Scientists are employed by colleges, universities, businesses, industries, hospitals, and government agencies.
  7. Scientists work in offices, classrooms, laboratories, farms, factories, and in natural settings from space to the ocean floor.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

Overview

About sixth grade students begin to see the need for identifying and controlling all variables and to provide for a control in some experiments.

  • With appropriate instruction they can design and explain simple experimental design (designs that manipulates one variable at a time) Understand the need to identify variable, chose one to manipulate (independent variables), collect data for it and appropriate responding variables (dependent variables), and to control all other variables in a logically planned experiment.
  • Recognize the need for a control in some experiments. Experiment with one variable manipulated while all other variables are controlled in the experimental system and provide another experiment where all variables are controlled. Observable difference between the control and the experimental can then be used to support a reasonable logical explanation for their question.
  • Recognize the need for the reasoning about observations as evidence to create explanations and conclusions which are communicated to be evaluated for its logic to determine the validity of explanations and models.

Example: Experiment to investigate the affect of dairy products on growth in mammals. An experiment is designed where two litter mate rats are raised in exactly the same conditions (heat temperature, light, sound,...), except one is feed a balanced diet including dairy products, the other has no dairy products but is substituted sugar water with the same amount of calories as the amount of dairy products fed to the dairy rat. Observational data is collected about the rats fur, mass, tail length, behavior, and x-rays of bone structure at the end of the experiment. Results are used to logically support an answer to the question, "Does dairy products affect the growth in mammals?" Contact the National Dairy Council for details.

Concepts: classified by essential elements of investigation

1. A person designs and conducts the scientific investigation.

  • People plan and carry out experiments.
  • Investigation involves all kinds of people.
  • Scientific investigations sometimes result in new ideas and phenomena for study.
  • Communication helps us learn from other people.
  • Scientists make the results of their investigations public, communicating in ways that enable others to repeat the investigation or try different investigations.
  • In science, it is helpful to work with a team of people and share findings with others.
  • All human subjects have a right to be fully informed about the risks and benefits associated with research and their right to refuse to participate.
  • Special care must be taken when using animals for research.

2. Create a question / hypothesis, a procedure to implement, that result in observations to use as results.

  • Questions can be created that can be examined through scientific investigations.
  • Observations help collect information that can be used to answer questions.
  • Tools can be used to make better and more accurate observations (magnifiers). Measurements help make more accurate observations.
  • People learn by making careful observations of objects interactions.
  • Observations can be compared through communication of properties.
  • What people expect to observe often affects what they actually do observe.
  • Unexpected observations can lead to new discoveries and to new investigations.
  • There are many kinds of signals in the world that are not detectable with human senses. Variables are conditions that change.
  • Changing variables (objects, time, temperature, distance, speed, mass, …) can help us answer questions and learn.
  • Variables need to be controlled for an experiment to be a fair comparison.
  • A control is an experiment with all the conditions the same except the one that is being tested.
  • Manipulating variables helps collect data.
  • If more than one variable changes at a time, the outcome may not be attributed to one of the variables. It may not be possible to identify or control all variables.
  • Special care must be taken when using animals for research.
  • Strong beliefs about what people expect to happen can prevent them from seeing other results. Scientists try to avoid this by having different people conducting independent studies.

3. Results are observable evidence that are used with reasoning to predict and explain.

  • Observations are made to describe objects, interactions, or events.
  • Objects can be described and compared by properties.
  • Change is when properties of an object or event become different by as a result of interactions and noticed through the progression of time.
  • Collecting data helps create explanations.

4. Results are recorded and communicated.

  • It is important in science to keep honest, clear, and accurate records Pictures can be used to represent objects and events.
  • Communication helps us explain evidence and reasoning to each other.
  • Communication requires a message being sent and received.
  • Information can be communicated in many different ways each of which has advantages and disadvantages.
  • Recording observations helps remember specific information.
  • Observations can be compared through communication of properties.
  • Before and after pictures can be used to represent change.
  • Computers help speed up and extend people's ability to collect, store, compile, and analyze data, prepare research reports, and share data and ideas with investigators all over the world.
  • Accurate data keeping and openness are essential to assure an investigator's credibility.

5. Results / data / descriptions are analyzed and interpreted to create explanations.

  • Data can be organized to discover, similarities, patterns, and differences that can be used to create explanations.
  • Data can be charted or graphed to show relationships that can lead to explanations.
  • Connections between evidence and explanations are sometimes hard to see.
  • Some evidence can lead to multiple explanations.
  • When people report different observations they can take more observations to try and find agreement.
  • Science experiments normally have reproducible results and work the same way in different places.
  • People can invent a rule to explain something by summarizing observations.
  • People tend to over generalize (imagine general rules based on a few observations).
  • Sometimes people use incorrect logic when they make a statement such as If A is true, then B is true. Therefore, if A isn't true, B isn't true.
  • A single example can never prove something true.
  • Sometimes a single example can prove something is not true.
  • An analogy has some likeness and some differences.
  • I can check my ideas in books and see if other people have the same ideas as I do.
  • Some tests are not fair if all variables are not kept the same.
  • Different reasons for what is happening have different degrees of accuracy.
  • A good way to know something is to try it out.
  • Data and explanations from investigations can be compared with what different scientists published about what they found and think about the world.

6. Conclusions are determined.

  • Explanations are developed from observation and are based on what is already known about the world.
  • Clear communication gives other people information about your discoveries and ideas.
  • Communication allows other people to agree or disagree with a person's findings.
  • People have always tried to communicate with one another.
  • Diagrams, charts, pictures, and writing help communicate data.
  • Investigative discoveries can become available to everyone in the world.
  • Errors can occur when communicating.
  • Repeating messages is a way to avoid miscommunication.
  • Directions can be written so other people can try procedures.
  • Sketches can be used to explain procedures, events, or ideas to the creator and other people.
  • Numerical data can be used to describe and compare objects and events to the creator and other people. Tables and charts can be used to represent objects and events.
  • If more than one variable changes at a time, the outcome may not be attributed to one of the variables.
  • It may not be possible to identify or control all variables.
  • What people expect to observe often affects what they actually do observe.
  • Strong beliefs about what they expect to happen can prevent them from seeing other results. Scientists try to avoid this by having different people conducting independent studies.
  • Unexpected observations can lead to new discoveries and to new investigations.
  • There are many kinds of signals in the world that are not detectable with human senses.

7. Mathematics and other tools that are frequently useful in scientific inquiry.

  • Mathematics can be used in many aspects of scientific inquiry.
  • Charts and graphs can be used to identify relationships.
  • Graphs can be used to recognize, represent and predict future relationships to the creator and other people.
  • Other kinds of tables, matrices, diagrams, webs, symbols, maps can be used to interpret and communicate information.
  • Regular and polar coordinates can be used to locate objects.
  • The ability to code messages has allowed faster communication.
  • Messages can be carried by many different media (light, electricity, sound, objects, glass fibers

Educator notes

 

 

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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