Resource 1: The scientific method in the classroom
The basic steps of the scientific method can be introduced and used with students from a young age. The list below discusses some of the ways that the scientific method can be applied in the everyday science classroom.
Questions drive the scientific method. As students begin to explore a new concept or topic, they will ask questions. Some of these questions can be used as a basis for investigation, such as ‘Where does the salt go when it dissolves?’ or ‘What happens when a candle burns?’ Students may produce questions like these during a brainstorming session or they could be encouraged to generate questions by completing a statement such as ‘I wonder …’.
The opportunities to promote observation skills in the school environment are almost limitless. For example, by planting different types of seeds in pots, students can observe the plant life cycle directly themselves. By standing outside, students can observe how shadows are cast. By looking inside their own mouth, and those of other students, students can observe the similarities and differences between people's teeth.
3 Form a hypothesis
You should use open-ended questions to encourage students to make a prediction. Examples might include ‘What do you think has happened to the salt?’ or ‘What will happen to the candle when we burn it?’ This kind of questioning will inspire students to find answers.
4 Conduct an experiment
Student-driven investigations that are based on questions that the students have generated themselves will be more motivating and meaningful to them. You can provide students with simple equipment to create their own investigations. Your students can provide oral feedback about what they have noticed or can draw and label what they have observed.
5 Collect results
Recording and collecting data is fundamental to the scientific method, with data students would not be able to draw conclusions about the way the world works around them. Data can be collected and represented in a variety of ways such as, graphs, tables, sketches, photos, videos and journals.
It is preferable for students to draw their own conclusions rather than be provided with answers by their teacher. You can help your students to construct their own meaning by asking them carefully worded open-ended questions. Examples might include ‘Why do you think the coin sinks and the straw floats?’ or ‘Why does your heart beat quickly when you jump for one minute?’ Allowing students to develop their own ideas can lead to further questions and investigations!
7 Communicate the results
Students should be given opportunities to discuss what they have noticed with their teachers and peers. This will help them to make connections between cause and effect, and help to organise their thinking.