Reflection: Student Ownership Designing an Experiment: (The Scientific Method in Action part 1) - Section 3: Designing the Experiment


I'll often mention throughout this curriculum how strongly I feel about the importance of including some element of student choice in class activities, no matter if they be research projects, short activities, or more involved experiments like this lesson.  Even when I adapt a lesson from some other source, I try and modify it to include some student choice to increase their sense of ownership of their learning and avoid that feeling that they're conducting an experiment "on rails".


In the case of this lesson, the student choice is front and center in the option to test their hypotheses with tasks of their choosing.  Although I discuss this in the section in detail, I want to mention it again "after the fact" with an illustrative example of how important student choice really is to motivating students to apply themselves earnestly to their work.


In this photo, you can see on e student seated in the foreground wearing a backpack, while another student runs towards him.  Two other students stand by, one using a stop watch to time the runner, the other recording the data on paper.  These students had created a basic test of the effects of vertigo: how long would it take to pick up a tennis ball and place it in the backpack of another student? 

This could have been done any number of ways, and there really was no need to have four students directly involved or to have a backpack be the "destination" (let alone any need to have that backpack be worn on a student's back and not on the ground).  By allowing the students the freedom to design it their way, however, all of the students in this group were engaged, excited, on task, and avoided the kinds of distractions that are possible when more inflexible instructions leave some students on the sidelines until it's "their turn" to be involved.   



  Student Ownership: On the Importance of Student Choice
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Designing an Experiment: (The Scientific Method in Action part 1)

Unit 1: The Nature of Science
Lesson 6 of 9

Objective: Students follow the steps of the scientific method to design an experiment to test the effects that vertigo has on their ability to perform basic tasks.

Big Idea: How can you answer a question using the scientific method?

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