In my classroom I used the strategy described in this blog entry to teach students scientific method and how to plan an experiment.

In any science lesson one of the important over-arching outcomes is to teach students to behave like a scientist – to use the scientific method to ask questions and come to valid conclusions. The scientific method is a way for students to improve their Management of Impulsivity.

In many classrooms students engage in scientific method – through their practical exercises – without actually learning this method. The theory seems to be if students go through the process often enough they will learn scientific method. Unfortunately my experience has been that most students blindly follow the “recipe” of the experiments, without really improving their understanding of scientific method.

Here’s what I did to get around this problem.

Early in the term I teach students the basic structure of an experiment, typically: Aim, Hypothesis, Equipment, Method, Results, Discussion and Conclusion. From then on I would give out practical exercises in 6 parts, requiring students to “put the prac together” before beginning. They quickly learnt that you couldn’t have a conclusion before you’d recorded your results and discussed them. Nor could you engage in the method without working out the equipment.

As the term progressed, and the basic structure of the experiment was mastered, I began cutting up the method section. Asking students to plan the experiment to a small degree.

In the beginning this was as simple as cutting the method into two sections and asking students to work out where they should begin and where they should end.

As time went on I slowly gave students more control over the planning. I began to cut the steps in the method into more parts. I deleted the “Equipment” section completely requiring students to work out what equipment they would need based on the method outlined.

Eventually I began to delete instructions. Instructions about how to record data, or the inclusion of a constant in the experiment were omitted entirely. I was always seeking keep students in their Goldilocks Zone, pushing them one small step further after a part of the planning had been mastered.

Over the course of one semester students slowly became very competent in scientific method – certainly better than any previous group. The process added very little time to each class and saved a full 6 weeks of a unit where I had previously taught scientific design as a topic.

Over all a very simple, practical and easy teaching strategy that resulted in a great improvement in the students’ ability to Managing their Impulsivity and a much better grasp of scientific method.