Inquiring into the Scientific Method

The scientific method is something we can easily take for granted, but it quite obviously has far reaching effects on our lives. Letting students discover it for themselves can be powerful. Our grade five students were given a chance to do just that – however I do question some of the structure imposed by teachers. Students were given strips of paper and “the steps” of the scientific method. They were asked to place them in (linear) order, and later asked to use their proposed method in the lab with various kitchen chemistry type ingredients.

I think there are a couple of issues here:

  1. The scientific method isn’t linear – at least I don’t think so.
  2. Giving the steps to the students creates a situation where students are meant to guess the answer, instead of finding out for themselves.

Scientists don’t work in a vacuum – they discuss, read, think, and build ideas on previous scientific inquiry. In this sense, students that chose ‘communicate’ as their first step, were on to something. This led us to begin a conversation about the steps, about their order, and about the larger concept behind the scientific method – repeatability.

Let’s see where this leads us next.

What are your thoughts?

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