Improving Science Education 5-14

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An Investigative Approach to Science
Teaching how to investigate
It is important that children have opportunities to combine all their skills in a complete investigation, but it is not necessary that the skills of Planning, Collecting Evidence, Recording and Presenting, and Interpreting and Evaluating be exclusively taught through investigations. Using an investigation does, however, allow all these targets to be addressed while carrying out practical activities.

Some teachers may wish to use an Investigation Report Form to assist the children in planning and reporting on their investigation. A possible reporting form is included within the package.

It is important that the results obtained from a particular investigation are the basis for any conclusions which may be drawn. Before carrying out an experiment we make a prediction (called a hypothesis) about what we expect to happen.

If the results turn out as we expect then our prediction was correct, if not the prediction was wrong. However, our conclusion must be based on what actually happened.

We cannot base a valid conclusion on what we expected to happen, or what we hoped would happen but only on what did happen.

The following example outlines the decisions made during an investigation into the effectiveness of insulators.

By following the key variables through the investigation it is possible to see how an investigation is constructed.

Outline of an investigation
How do the number of layers of cloth affect the heat loss from a container?
Planning the experiment

Deciding on key variables

What will you change? Number of layers
What will you measure? Temperature after 20 minutes

Make a prediction/hypothesis

When I increase the Number of layers I think the Temperature after 20 minutes will be greater in the container with the most layers of insulation.

Carrying out the experiment

3 identical containers each with 20 ml of hot water at 50°C and a thermometer in each with …………………
0 layers 1 layer 2 layers
Recording & Presenting

Make a table of results :-

Number of layers

Temperature of water after 20 min. (°C)







Draw a graph of results :-


Interpreting & Evaluating

Finding a pattern in the results :-

When I increase the Number of layers the Temperature after 20 minutes stays at a higher temperature in the container with the most layers of insulation.

The more layers of insulation, the less heat energy is lost.
One possible approach to investigations is to use a sequence of structured tasks which allow the children to progress logically through a complete investigation. This is the approach which is outlined below: A copy of the posters used are included in the package.

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