An internal conversation I do have is...
- Is this experiment to show a scientific theory? - If yes, then it better blimmin' work every time. I don't want any odd results and I don't want to have to say "Oh - you should have seen …". If this happens, I have lost them and all sorts of misconceptions get reinforced, or created or worse, they might think science is stupid!
- Will the students see what I need them to see if they do the experiment? Or would it be better to do a Demo or even use an Animation or Video
- Is this experiment to show the process of doing a scientific investigation? - If yes, then it is better to get some unusual answers, then I can have conversations about reliability or variables, or comparisons.
- I never do both these bullet points in the same experiment. - To me, they seem mutually exclusive for the age and cognitive development of the students I teach (high school aged)
The second bullet point is easy to go with, it involves the teacher asking a bunch of open and dialogic questions during the activity to get students thinking.
The first bullet point is really the sticky one - let's talk about that moreHow do I get the students to link the experiment to the scientific theory?
I think of it this way... The experiment is a model of the scientific theory or scientific idea and so if I sit it within the Nature of Science: Communicating in Science rather than in the Investigating in Science sub-strand, it causes me to treat the learning experience in a different way.
- Teach the scientific theory or idea
- Introduce the experiment as a model of the theory
- Get the students to use their new knowledge of the theory and their existing knowledge and understandings of the natural world to predict their observations
- Do the experiment. As I move around groups, I talk about the observations they made. I really encourage them to look closely. I might need to encourage them to do the experiment again if one team saw something another team didn't. I really encourage them to dig into the model (experiment)
- In discussion at the end I might ask questions like:
- How did this experiment represent the scientific theory we have been looking at?
- What observations did you notice that were representative of this theory?
- How did this experiment NOT represent the scientific theory we have been looking at?
- What questions do you have about this model or this theory?
- How can we design an investigation that helps answer those questions?
- How can we design a new model that does represents the missing parts of the theory we couldn't observe with this experiment?
- I have a different representation of this theory for us to look into - let's see which parts of this theory it shows....