COMPLEX REASONING SKILL: EXPERIMENTAL INQUIRY Experimental Inquiry: The process of generating and testing explanations of observed phenomena. Stated more simply, it is the process of developing and testing explanations of things we observe. Sections: 1. Understand Experimental Inquiry i. Relate a famous example of experimental inquiry, an experiment of your own, how our lives influenced by the discoveries, current situations which would benefit from the process. ii. Answering four basic questions: What do I observe?, How can I explain what I observe?, What do I predict based on my explanations?, How can I test my predictions? 2. Process Model and Practice i. Model for younger students: 1. What do I see or notice? 2. How can I explain it? 3. Based on my explanation, what can I predict? 4. How can I test my prediction? 5. What happened? Is it what I predicted? Do I need to try a different explanation? ii. Model for older students: 1. Observe something that interests you, and describe what has occurred. 2. Explain what you have observed. What theories or rules could explain what you have observed? 3. Based on your explanation, make a prediction. 4. Set up an experiment or activity to test your prediction. 5. Explain the results of your experiment in light of your explanation. If necessary, revise your explanation or prediction or conduct another experiment. iii. Create opportunities for practice 1. Use a concrete example of a physical phenomenon that students understand in a think-aloud presentation of each step. 2. Continue to practice and walk through he steps as a class, small groups, pairs, and then individually. 3. Because it requires understanding concepts such as prediction and explanation, avoid complex content knowledge in early practice. 4. Have the steps posted in the classroom and/or have students copy them into notebooks. 3. Key Points and Difficult Aspects i. Because the process is so demanding, it helps if students are examining topics that are interesting and meaningful to them. ii. Important for students to have the opportunity to learn the knowledge they will need in step 2: offering possible explanations for the observed phenomena; a deductive process when applying general theories and rules to novel, specific situations. iii. At first, students may need a great deal of help when learning how to set up experiments. iv. Regardless of the outcome of the experiment, it is important to set up additional experiments or consider different explanations. 4. Graphic Organizers i. Experimental Inquiry Flow Chart: Helps students see how the steps of the process interact and can be used as an organizer when they are engaged in the process. 5. Teacher-structured and Student-structured Tasks i. Teacher-structured: Provide demonstration or description of content phenomenon, ask for explanation, using explanation develop predictions and experiments to test, provide information and resources for set up, review and report on results. ii. Student-structured: Provide content with unexplained phenomenon, they select and describe observations, suggest possible explanation, make prediction, devise and carry out experiment, opportunity to explain results and possible next steps.
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