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Scientific Inquiry


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									                                       Mastering the Process of Scientific Inquiry (High School Biology)

Guiding Question        Student Stepping                   Example of Scientific Inquiry                      Supporting Scientific Inquiry through Related
                          Stone Toward                                                                                          Activities
                        Scientific Inquiry
How does the         Application                  Characteristics of Living Things or A Survey             Have the class find a relevant article in the news,
experiment relate     Students apply             of Life. Students begin by making a list of             magazines or on the web. Have students do a short paper
to the real world?   knowledge to their own       characteristics they believe define life.               and a mini-oral report to the class. They should focus on
                     lives or the world           Students test and refine this list by observing         how the content applies to what they are currently learning
Why is the           around them.                 plants, animals, and microscopic organisms at           in class as well as their lives.
research              Students become            various stations in the room. Lastly students            Start each unit with students speculating how the unit
significant?         involved in what they        ask if their final list of characteristics applies to   will apply to them or their environment. Throughout the
                     are learning.                themselves. Through discussion students                 unit informally ask students how they can relate to the
                                                  further refine this list.                               material they are learning. Then at the end of the unit ask
                                                  Alternatively, student could survey the biota           the students the same question. Have the students record
                                                  and draw a web showing interactions between             their answers in a journal or their notes so they can
                                                  the organisms and themselves.                           compare their answers. Have the students share their
                                                  In future scientific inquiries have students           answers with the class.
                                                  write a few sentences about how the study                When designing content webs, students can include
                                                  pertains to their lives or their environment.           themselves in the web with a brief statement of how they
                                                                                                          relate to the content.
                                                                                                           Students draw themselves as scientists.
What constitutes a   Generating a Question        Raisin & 7-Up observation. Students make                 Work toward having students write questions every day
testable question?    Students realize           observations and transform the observations             at the start of class. The teacher can start by writing
                     potential sources for        into questions. Each observation should have            questions and discussing why he/she chose the questions
                     generating questions.        an affiliated question. Students can then work          to the class. Eventually students should write and answer
                      Students appreciate        with other students to generate a list of               their own questions. For example, students could write
                     that scientific inquiry is   questions they believe are “testable.” Have             two content-related questions and one personal interest or
                     about asking questions.      students propose their ideas to the class and           real-life application question at the start of class.
                      Students learn that        engage in a discussion about what makes a                Alternate assigning homework questions from the book
                     some questions work          testable question. Make a list of testable              with student generated questions about content or related
                     better for scientific        question attributes on the board.                       content. Provide feedback on student choice of questions
                     inquiry than others.         In future scientific inquiries check to make           in addition to content response.
                      Students learn that        sure students devise testable questions.                 Encourage students to ask questions during a lecture.
                     scientific inquiry           Note: Students will need skills and strategies          For example, interrupt lecture every five minutes to allow
                     requires collaborative       for engaging in discourse and for working with          students to record and discuss questions they have about
                     discourse.                   groups.                                                 the material or related issues.
Guiding Question        Student Stepping                 Example of Scientific Inquiry                   Supporting Scientific Inquiry through Related
                          Stone Toward                                                                                     Activities
                        Scientific Inquiry
How are future       Developing Future           Methyl Blue. Have students perform a simple          When discussing major contributions from scientists,
research questions   Research Ideas              experiment about the contents of two flasks.        have students generate questions that could expand or
designed?             Students use guided       Students follow given procedures and make           enhance the scientist’s work.
                     experiments to generate     observations about the unknown solutions. At         Assign homework problems that ask students to read
                     more questions for          the end of the mini-lab have students write         about an experiment related to content they are learning in
                     inquiry.                    what they learned and what they have not            class and have them generate future experiments that
                      Students learn that       learned. Have the students use the latter list to   could be done as a follow up or extrapolation of the
                     inquiry is about using      create a list of testable, simple experiments       experiment. Have students discuss the questions they
                     content to ask questions    students could do. Evaluate the experiments as      derived and have classmates provide feedback.
                     that interest them.         a class and allow students to run further tests.
                                                 In future scientific inquiries have students
                                                 design “Going Further” questions upon
                                                 completion of their study.
How are              Developing a                Water Quality. Have students read a statement        Have students make predictions about outcomes for
hypotheses and       Hypothesis &                from a concerned citizen. Provide students          demonstrations or scientific phenomena before explaining
alternative          Developing Alternative      with background information on stream               or having them read about an explanation.
hypotheses           Hypotheses                  ecology, pollution, and the life history of          Have students practice finishing your sentences or have
written?              Students understand       salmon. Have students work in groups and            them predict what your main point is.
                     how to use resources to     generate a question relating to the citizen’s        When reviewing homework or guiding questions from
                     make predictions about      statement. Then have students observe a mock        a lab or activity, have the class generate one possible
                     experimental outcomes.      set up of the stream and marked test sites.         explanation and then challenge the students to devise two
                      Students apply            Provide each group of students with a sample        other plausible explanations.
                     content knowledge and       of water, bottom layer, and benthos from each
                     preexisting knowledge       stream test site. Tell the students to use the
                     to make educated            knowledge they read about and their initial
                     guesses about their         observations of the test site samples to write a
                     experiments.                hypothesis. Then tell them to devise two more
                      Students learn that       plausible hypotheses. Provide students with a
                     scientific inquiry starts   list of materials available to them and have
                     with thinking broadly       them perform simple experiments. Have
                     and keeping options         students discuss their findings and make
                     open.                       comments about which hypothesis they were
                      Students realize how      able to investigate and why.
                     to use tools to guide       In future scientific inquiries have students
                     their own learning.         perform background research (or at least have
                                                 them tell you what information they need) and
                                                 write a hypothesis and alternative hypotheses.

Guiding Question        Student Stepping               Example of Scientific Inquiry                 Supporting Scientific Inquiry through Related
                          Stone Toward                                                                                 Activities
                        Scientific Inquiry
How are controls,    Devising Controls and     Biomes & Adaptations. Assemble some                Provide students with several examples from recent
dependent and        Variables                 terrariums with biota specific to each biome.     scientific findings. Provide an overview and a list of
independent           Students understand     Some ideas include: Marine- saltwater, rocks,     materials and a brief description of the procedures for
variables included   components of controls    crabs and kelp. Desert- sand, iguanas and         each experiment. Then have students identify what they
in an experiment?    and independent and       cacti. Coniferous Forest- underbrush,             would use for a control and variables. Compare student
                     dependent variables and   salamanders, and small shrubs. Rainforest-        controls and variables to the actual ones used by the
                     use them in designing     heat-lamp, mist, frogs and tropical plants.       researchers. Have students evaluate the researchers
                     their experiments.        Have students write a question addressing how     controls and variables and decide if they are suitable for
                      Students learn how      plants or animals adapt to their environment,     the experiment or if the students’ ideas might work better.
                     to shape their own        read literature on their biome, write a           Have student groups report their findings and justify their
                     experiments and           hypothesis and perform a simple experiment        arguments to the class.
                     learning.                 with one control and one independent and
                                               dependent variable. Have the students make a
                                               PowerPoint presentation with their
                                               experimental findings and information from
                                               their background research.
                                               In future scientific inquiries have students
                                               devise controls and independent and dependent
                                               variables. Note: scientific inquiry activities,
                                               as opposed to experiments, often do not have
                                               controls and variables.
What needs to be   Research Design             Forensic Lab. Present a forensic case with         Have students read facts or concepts from their
included in a list Researching Materials       evidence. Students will need to decide what       textbook or newspaper articles. Allow the students to
of materials?      & Procedures                tests they would like to perform and how they     work in groups and develop a list of procedures that would
                    Students gain             will do them. Tell the students to use the        nullify or support the fact or concept. Have students
What skills need   knowledge about using       evidence and background literature on forensic    evaluate other students’ lists and discuss what might be
to be learned or   information to generate     tests to write procedures and materials. Focus    added or what might be extraneous or unclear.
researched before a list of materials and      on how to write detailed procedures and            Have students write a detailed guide for how to work
the experiment can procedures.                 materials based on the literature. Students       effectively in groups. Tell students that they are writing
be conducted?       Students learn that       should present materials and procedures to the    for a younger audience learning how to collaborate.
                   scientific inquiry          DA (the teacher) as well as justification for      Have the students read about a high-tech or procedure
How are            questions and               why they are doing the test before                intensive technique. For example, if studying genetics,
reproducible       hypotheses may need to      experimenting. Students will probably need to     students could read about DNA gel electrophoresis. Have
procedures         be reevaluated.             revise their lists several times.                 students make a list of the materials and procedures. They
written?            Students learn how        In future scientific inquiries have students     will need access to books or the web to research how the
                   to shape their own          research scientific techniques and derive         procedure is accomplished and what materials would be
                   experiments.                necessary materials and procedures.               needed.
Guiding Question       Student Stepping              Example of Scientific Inquiry                 Supporting Scientific Inquiry through Related
                         Stone Toward                                                                                Activities
                       Scientific Inquiry
How are data        Data Collection &       Populations. Have students devise an                Choose articles that relate to the topic being covered
collected and       Representations         experiment investigating yeast population          and that contain graphs. Graphs from various sources
represented          Students learn how    growth. The aim is to find the carrying            (newspapers, magazines, journals) can be compared with
appropriately?      to collect quantitative capacity of the population. Students can           the description of what the graph is supposed to represent.
                    and qualitative data.   choose from the following variables:               Students can decide if the graph is an accurate
                     Students decide how   temperature, light, space, and amount of food.     representation of the research. If it does portray the major
                    and what data to collectFor their chosen variable they should vary the     findings clearly then students should justify why they
                    for their experiments.  quantity. Students will need to devise a way to    believe it does. If it does not accurately portray the major
                                            calculate the population and record data.          findings, students should suggest how the authors might
                                            Attention should be given to making data           improve the graphs. Students should present their
                                            tables, describing the data in paragraph form      arguments to the class for feedback.
                                            and choosing the correct graph to represent         When presenting a new concept in class, especially a
                                            their data. Students can check their work with     concept that is based on an experiment, ask student “How
                                            other students or the teacher.                     could you measure this?” or “If we graphed this, what
                                            Note: Students will need to practice graphing      would it look like?”
                                            and learn the components of a scientific graph.
                                            In future scientific inquiries have students
                                            present their data in tables, paragraphs and
What calculations Data Calculations &       Osmosis and Vegetables. Students should             Again, relevant journal or magazine articles can be
and data            Representations         design questions and experiments, do               evaluated. Students can evaluate data sets and make note
representations      Students decide what background reading on osmosis and the               of the context in which the authors made mathematical
need to be          calculations need to be osmotic pressure of the vegetable(s) they are      manipulations. Over time, student can evaluate if the
performed to show preformed on their data. investigating. In addition to collecting data,      researchers did appropriate calculations given their data.
trends in the data?  Students are          students should do calculations with their data.
                    empowered by            Examples might include percent change in
                    choosing mathematical mass or standard deviation. Students should
                    manipulations that suit discuss their rational for the calculations they
                    their data.             choose with the class.
                                            Note: Students will need training on
                                            calculator or computer statistical analysis and
                                            access to descriptions of mathematical
                                            calculations they can perform with their data.
                                            In future scientific inquiries have students do
                                            appropriate calculations with their data and
                                            represent the calculations in tables and graphs.

Guiding Question         Student Stepping                  Example of Scientific Inquiry                   Supporting Scientific Inquiry through Related
                           Stone Toward                                                                                      Activities
                         Scientific Inquiry
How is                Evaluating Error             Hominid Evolution. Check out a series of             Provide sample sets of data to each group of students
experimental error     Students calculate         plastic skulls and let students devise              and have them assess the percent error and then correlate
evaluated?            percent error for their      experiments showing the degree of relatedness       the amount of error with an explanation of possible
                      experiments based on         between the skulls. Students will need to           sources of error. Students could use a “round robin” to
                      class or theoretical data.   investigate the types of analysis performed on      review and add to each group’s error assessment. The
                       Students identify and      skulls and typical values for each species.         group that started with a particular data set would
                      evaluate sources of          Students will need values to calculate percent      assimilate other student comments and present the
                      error (from instruments      error. If error is greater than 5%, students will   combined effort assessment to the class.
                      and/or human error).         need to identify sources of error. If not,
                       Students learn that        students will need to discuss their accuracy.
                      scientific inquiry is        Students should present their research and
                      dynamic and has room         students can formulate understanding of
                      for improvement.             hominid evolution through discussion of their
                                                   findings and evaluation of error.
                                                   In future scientific inquiries have students
                                                   calculate percent error and asses error within
                                                   their own experiments.
How are trends in     Identifying and              Plant Leeching. Have students design                 Provide an overview (include outcome predictions or
the data identified   Analyzing Data Trends        experiments investigating soil composition and      expectations) as well as graphs from scientific research
and analyzed?          Students compare           plant leaching. Several factors should be           that relates to current topics covered in class. Have
                      data within their            considered and data should be taken over            students write short paragraphs about what the graphs
                      experiment and identify      several days. Students will need to devise          indicate and whether or not it matched with the
                      trends and outliers.         complex graphs representing their data.             researchers predicted outcome.
                      From this they identify      Emphasis should be placed on comparing
                      positive and negative        different graphs to obtain an overall picture of
                      associations and             what is occurring to the plant, soil, and water.
                      potential cause and          Students should think about possible
                      effect relationships.        explanations given the information from each
                       Students gain skills       graph and a review of scientific literature.
                      in describing WHY            Much student-student and student-teacher
                      there are trends and         dialog will be needed in attempt to maximize
                      relationships.               understanding of the data and its implications.
                       Students learn that         In future scientific inquiries have students
                      scientific inquiry           look for trends in their graphs and explain what
                      involves critical            might account for the trends or lack of trends.
                      thinking skills.

Guiding Question          Student Stepping                 Example of Scientific Inquiry                   Supporting Scientific Inquiry through Related
                            Stone Toward                                                                                     Activities
                          Scientific Inquiry
How are data           Comparing and               Bacterial Inhibition. Students will have access      Students can practice interviewing each other to assess
compared and           Analyzing Data              to a strain of gram-negative and gram-positive      background knowledge prior to a unit, quizzing one
analyzed?               Students understand       bacteria. Students can choose antibiotics from      another before a test, sharing answers to challenging in-
                       how to compare data         available disks and can bring bactericides from     class questions. After sharing answers students should
                       with other students and     home. Students will need to research sterile        reformulate answers to include ideas from the entire
                       with literature.            technique, the bacterial strains, antibiotics and   group.
                        Students gain skills      bactericides. Emphasis should be place on            Students could write a group paper, in which each
                       in describing WHY           sharing data between classmates and making          student studies a different aspect or viewpoint. Students
                       their data was similar or   comparisons. In addition, students will need to     would need to assimilate and interweave the various
                       different.                  read background information from medical            points to create a solid paper.
                        Students learn that       journals and a pharmaceutical handbook to            Students can read and compare the presentation of the
                       scientific inquiry          compare the projected effectiveness of the          same concept from two different biology textbooks. They
                       involves critical           antibiotics. Students will need to explain the      can evaluate which text better explains the concept and
                       thinking skills.            degree to which and why their experiments           why.
                                                   were similar or different from classmates and
                                                   scientific literature.
                                                   In future scientific inquiries have students
                                                   compare data with classmates and with
                                                   experimental findings from related research.
How do students        On your own                 Topic directed research project. Plants.             For posters, students can select their own topics or
get started on their    Students will             Students are given a topic but have the freedom     emphasis after completing a literature search.
own research           research a topic prior to   to investigate anything related to plants. This      Students can write questions for tests based on their
projects?              conducting the              will probably work best at the end of the unit      experimental findings.
                       experiment, thus            after students have been exposed to various
                       gaining knowledge           properties of plants. Alternatively, it could be
                       about current research      used to teach pertinent information to students.
                       in the field. This serves   In this case, teachers would want to make sure
                       as a launching pad for      that students include the content that needs to
                       students to engage in       be covered in their experiments or final reports.
                       the above processes.        End of the year research project. Start by
                        Students learn that       having students make a list of what they found
                       they can direct their       most interesting in the class. Have them place
                       own learning by             stars by their top two choices. After doing
                       applying knowledge of       some background research on related studies
                       the process of scientific   students can select the area they are most
                       inquiry.                    interested in pursuing.

Representing Knowledge and Evaluating Knowledge are also part of the scientific inquiry process. These components should take place
throughout the year and a special emphasis should be placed on representation and evaluation once students have mastered the process of inquiry
and are performing their own experiments and activities. Representation of scientific inquiry can take place in a variety of forms- oral
presentations, written documents or formal lab reports, PowerPoint presentations, videotape presentations, etc. Teachers should provide periodic
evaluations or checkpoints throughout the process. Clear grading rubrics or mastery guides are necessary to challenge students and meet high
expectations. In addition, students can practice using the mastery guides to evaluate themselves and each other. School principals and community
members can also aid in evaluation. Ideally, students should find an scientist who has expertise in the field they are investigating to provide
periodic feedback and overall assessment.

By mastering the process of scientific inquiry, students gain skills in scientific literacy because they are responsible for reading, interpreting and
applying scientific literature. Students also gain skills in critical thinking because students reflect, interpret, evaluate, analyze, apply and
synthesize their own definitions for scientific theory and scientific findings.

                 Stepping Stones for Mastering the Process of Scientific Inquiry

Application           Generating a Question      Developing Future Research Ideas

                                                               Developing a Hypothesis
                                                               & Alternative Hypotheses

                                           Devising Controls and Variables

                         Research Design

                 Data Collection
                 & Representations

Data Calculations
& Representations &

                            Evaluating Error

                                                        Identify & Analyzing Data Trends

                               Comparing and Analyzing Data

Your Own

              Representing Acquired Knowledge

                                           Evaluating Knowledge



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