March 30, 2016

Scientific Method: Neglect & Regrets

Are you guilty?

 - of being a scientific method side-stepper?

- a latter-steps neglecter?

- all flash, but no bang?

I’m a recovering latter-steps neglecter, and I want you to know there is hope & the grass is so much greener on the other side!

A little background: I spent most of my ten years teaching 5th grade. I moved down to second grade to shock the system for two years, and then up to 7th Life Science & ELA, which is where this story begins.

The first 7th-grade science experiment reports I collected were underwhelming, to say the least. In their reports the students explained the hypothesis, procedure, and results with absolutely no analysis or critical thought. How on Earth had they gotten it so wrong?! Hadn’t anyone taught them that?  What a tremendous waste of time trying to grade these reports would be!

If there's a better way to show the whirlwind of emotions as I read those reports,
I couldn't figure it out!

When ~70 students are all doing it wrong, you have to pull up your big teacher pants and admit you made the classic error of assigning rather than teaching.

My irritation gave way to guilt as I recalled the ghosts of experiments in years past where my class performed an experiment but ran out of time to go much further. Visiting my classroom on those days, you might have thought there were only four steps to scientific method! With all the good intent of following up the next day but little quality follow-through, these crucial latter steps were often short-changed.  Now my neglect was coming back to haunt me – cruel, cruel karma!

I decided not to grade the reports. Instead I would teach (what a concept!), and have them revise (really re-do) the reports.

I began my hunt for support materials, but I just couldn't find what I needed to dig deep on thinking critically about data.  My epiphany moment came when I realized what I really wanted to do was to shift the imbalance of class time to the latter part of the scientific method.  I didn’t have the luxury of time (who does?!) to run full experiments and generate data to then teach data analysis.  Plus, my students had already shown they knew how to run experiments and record results! 

We didn't have to do the entire experiment for multiple experiments to get what I was after! What we needed was a set of completed experiments/investigations we could analyze, draw conclusions, and suggest next steps.

Oh, did I try hard to find the items on my wish list!  I really tried - physical stores and online with every possible search term & verb tense configuration possible.  I was desperate to find resources, but I came up empty.

I fretted.

I lamented.

I tried and tried again. 

Finally, I accepted what I wanted wasn't out there.
I did as all teachers do: when you can't find it, make it!

So began the birth of the Analyze & Interpret Data Unit. {Read on for a freebie application/assessment sheet!}  

After two weeks of focused instruction and practice in identifying variables, setting up line graphs, determining variable relationships, drawing conclusions, and generating next steps, I asked students to revise their original experiment reports.

Wouldn’t you know it?  The revised reports showed fantastic growth in scientific thinking. Grammatical errors and general organization would have to wait for another day ... baby steps tackling one hurdle at a time!

Who would've guessed - when you teach students what to do, they'll often surprise you and do it!

The full Analyze and Interpret Data Unit includes:

Whether you use one of my resources or not, I hope you'll aim to be a super-suave scientific method master and teach your students to do likewise!

Here’s an application/assessment freebie to get you started on your path:

Check out these other great ideas from some of my bloggers!

Khys Bosland Fonts


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  1. What an informative blog post. I so enjoyed reading it.

    1. Thanks, Deann! This focus on the analyzing and interpreting data made a huge impact in my class. Glad you enjoyed the post! :)

  2. Great post, Kerry! I agree that if you can't find exactly what you need, the best plan is to make it yourself! Thank you for saving science teachers hours of work by creating this great resource for them!

  3. Very nice post. I'm sure so many will benefit from you sharing your freebie.

  4. Brilliant product! I loved reading about your teaching process, thanks!

  5. I love this! And I admit, I'm guilty also. Since I'm teaching science next year (for the 1st time in 20 years!!), this is going to be so helpful!! Thank you!! You always have the BEST products that truly teaching students!!

  6. I really enjoyed this post. It connects to the work I've been doing with visible thinking routines. I've noticed this trend in classrooms, including mine!

  7. Thank you for this post. I know I've had to "Pull up my teacher pants" and admit that I was the problem, not the students. I'm always amazed how quiet they get and how much more focused they are when I admit that I didn't do a good job teaching them the first time. So, we do it again. Your product looks great!