Scientific Method vs. Methods of Scientists
AKA how science gets done
Try this Formative Assessment Probe by Page Keely (Doing Science). . .
Does it surprise you that “Tamara?” is the most accurate view of how scientists “do” science? In spite what we all learned in school as the scientific method, there is no one beginning to end process that scientists follow. As teachers we need to be cautious about presenting the scientific method as a step-by-step linear process.
Try another Formative Assessment Probe by Page Keely (Hypothesis). . . (at bottom of text)
The best choices are A, B, G, K, L and M. Why are these options surprising to you? They tend to go against how we learned about hypotheses in our own school experiences. However, research scientists rarely even use hypotheses. The main reason for this is because it tends to skew their view of the data they gather. Just like our students, it is human nature to want to be “right” and so to state an hypothesis puts them in danger of not being objective any longer.
Watch this video about How Science Works. . . As you can see, the scientists definitely do not follow a linear process! What implications do you think this might have for how we might present the “scientific method” to students?
As one can see from the video, scientists must be adept at using many different skills, practices, processes and methods. They also need to be able to choose which one to employ in any given juncture in the process. We need to build this same sort of skill set in our students. Engaging students in the eight Science and Engineering Practices builds toward this. Also, we need to help student think through the steps they might follow for an investigation or experiment. Working through the process as a whole class we can model the thinking process of choosing a next step to continue to build our understanding of a phenomenon. Check out “I Taught My Students How to Do the Scientific Method and They Are Good at Using It!” from Tools and Traits for Highly Effective Science Teaching (p. 13-14) for some further ideas about what this looks like.
If students have this sort of thinking and metacognition modeled for them through think-alouds and whole-class investigation, eventually we can shift their ability to enable them to choose appropriate next steps for their own investigations as well. This might look like posting the following chart on the wall and using it to help guide our choice of strategies as we endeavor to build understanding.