Resource 2: Pedagogy – using investigations to test ideas fairly and gather data
There are different strategies you can use to help students develop their skills in investigations. The list below summarises the basic steps you might include as you do investigations with your students.
- Thinking about the topic: Use brainstorming or mind mapping to stimulate students’ ideas about your topic. You can do this with the whole class, or begin with groups and then have a whole-class session. The important thing is to make students think actively about the issues being raised and to establish their current knowledge of the topic.
- Defining the focus: A brainstorming session will throw up many different ideas. These can be recorded on the blackboard or on a chart, but you then need to have a clear focus for the students so that they can use the answers they generate to help them understand the topic. You can use a question like ‘What are the ideal conditions for seeds to grow?’ or ‘What is the difference between the rate of epigeal and hypogeal germination?’
- Planning your investigation: All sorts of methods are available to you. It is important that students think about the methods to be used and why. They need to make sure that their testing is fair, which means that only one variable is changed at any time. They need to think how to record their results.
- Carrying out and reporting the investigation: The students then have to carry out the investigation and report on their findings. The report back may be verbal or could be in the form of a chart, table or graph, so that you can show similarities and differences in the findings.
- Interpreting findings: Once the data is recorded and reported , the findings have to be interpreted.
It is very important that you, the teacher, do not dominate discussions initially. Let the students voice their own ideas (in verbal or written forms) before beginning to steer them, perhaps through open questioning, to the key learning interpretations you are looking for and can be made from their findings.