Investigating Scientific Claims!

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Students will learn how to develop, execute and analyze the products of a scientific investigation.

Big Idea

Supporting or refuting claims from the neuroscience research community!


Lesson Background & Justification:

       The first days of school in the science classroom are instrumental in establishing safety procedures, behavioral expectations, content overview and classroom norms. Establishing this foundation early on helps to develop and instill a sense of purpose for  students, prepares them for scientific practice (lab skills) and provides a foundation for inquiry. This lesson specifically focuses on the third day of class where students become acclimated to processes necessary for authentic inquiry, solid investigative strategies and the production of universally accepted representation of data . Students will learn to utilize specific planning tools such as Investigation Design Diagrams and Scientific Explanation Tools, to increase their capacity for inquiry based learning throughout the year. As a result of this lesson, students will be able to actively make observations, ask definitive research questions, collect, analyze, and synthesize information, and draw conclusions to develop useful problem-solving skills. Ultimately and naturally, said skill acquisition will lead students to the development of habits of mind that can last a lifetime and guide learning and creative thinking.     

 Lesson Preparations:

 In the effort to prepare for this lesson, I make certain that I have the following items in place:


a) Student lab books should be present or additional notebook paper sheets for those who don't.

b) For the  exploration activity, I have a variety of materials available to facilitate the open inquiry process (the class will develop the direction of the research for each class).  Some basic materials that are commonly requested include a class set of calculators, graph paper, and a class set of rulers. 


Note: It is a good idea to secure extra copies (beyond the original roster totals) of all items listed and lesson agenda written on the board to account for any potential mishaps which may occur and are beyond your control (loss of internet access, added students, etc.).


Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data

SP3- Planning and carrying out investigations.

W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


 Standards Rationale: In the science classroom, students are regularly charged with tasks to collect and make sense of data from readings and investigations. What makes these science experiences powerful enough to retain however, is an instructor's ability to access, stimulate and develop students' higher order thinking capacities for cognitive growth and subsequently establishing sound learning practices. In this lesson, students learn to argue the validity of a scientific claim through scientific investigation, data collection and analysis therein.  This aforementioned skillset is essential to science lessons because they offer students an opportunity to systematically approach everyday claims, the basis of science. This also establishes a framework for students to approach the scientific concepts introduced to them throughout their term in the science classroom, making them more prepared to handle open inquiry and using evidence as support of claims made within their investigations.


15 minutes

Section Primer:

          In this section of the lesson, students will view a five minute segment of a video clip on the relationship between the teenage brain and their natural tendencies towards taking on risk related behaviors. The following vocabulary terms are presented in the video and are defined below for instructor's clarity:

          Limbic System: The limbic system is a set of evolutionarily primitive brain structures located on top of the brainstem and buried under the cortex which are involved in many of our emotions and motivations, particularly those that are related to survival. Such emotions include fear, anger, and emotions related to sexual behavior. The limbic system is also involved in feelings of pleasure that are related to our survival, such as those experienced from eating and sex.

         Dopamine: is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. It helps to regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to gain students interest in the concept of risk taking and how this varies based on genetics and specific developmental stages in humans. Using a segment of a lecture presented by Laurence Steinburg, a researcher on teenage brain science, students are introduced to the science behind why teenagers are greater risk takers than adults and are additionally primed to ask questions about their experiences which may lead to further investigations. I present this introductory or engagment activity in the following sequence:

a) I start with slide 1 of the power point presentation "Risk Taking" and present the question "What is a risk?" to the class. I read the question aloud and verbally solicit students for general meanings of the word. After listening to a few responses from selected students with raised hands, I advance the next question on the same slide.

b) I, then read the question projected but preface its reading by stating, based on our definitions presented, are you a risk taker? I further request for students to explain why or why not as they verbally present their responses. I permit for a short time period for students to articulate and share their responses aloud to the class.

c) To provide a quick visualization of the class's assessment, I ask for students to stand if they consider themselves to be risk takers. Next, I verbalize to the class an estimated percentage of those standing and then request for students to be seated. I then repeat this process but focus on those who represent zero risk takers and those who are in the middle ground within the same population. This physically displays data for the question "Are we risk takers?" and sets the stage for students to understand the persuasion of some claims in the next few steps.  

d) I then rhetorically ask students to consider the stats generated for the class based on their personal assessments and how these numbers might compare to science studies related to the topic. I then play the following video for the first 5 minutes and 15 seconds for the class.  

e) Post video, I revisit the activities outlined in step C and make verbal notes with the class specific to any statistical shifts.  

f) Finally, I verbally pose the following series questions to the class "Based on our pre and post video data, do you think we believe as a class in the presenter's claim regarding teenage risk taking tendencies? Why or why not? For the skeptics, what questions do you have?" I permit a couple of minutes for open classroom discussion.

The idea here is to get students to increase their awareness of idea shifts based on the presentation of claims. More specifically, I make students aware of the shift in statistics based on their acceptance of claims and not collection of their personal evidences. 


30 minutes

Section Primer:

         Digit Ratio (2D:4D Ratio): A digit ratio is the ratio of the lengths of different fingers. It has been suggested by some scientists that the ratio of two digits in particular, the 2nd (index finger) and 4th (ring finger), is affected by exposure to androgens e.g. testosterone while in the uterus and that this 2D:4D ratio can be considered a rudimentary measure for prenatal androgen exposure. This ratio is calculated by measuring the index finger of the right hand, then the ring finger, and dividing the former by the latter. A longer ring finger will result in a ratio of less than 1, a longer index finger will result in a ratio higher than 1.

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to get students creative scientific juices flowing. Specifically, I aim to stimulate their ideas about a 2D:4D ratio claim and the information presented in the engagement video to promote students' assertion of an investigation question. This question is then utilized to lead students into a structured investigation. I present this exploratory activity in the following sequence:

a) I advance to slide 2 of the presentation and tell students to consider another claim regarding risk taking. It is here that I verbally explain the 2D:4D image and the suggested testosterone correlation by some scientists (see primer).  

b) I then advance the next claim on the same slide and read the next claim regarding risk taking and the 2D:4D ratio. I ask students what their thoughts are regarding the claim (true? false? why? or why not?). I permit a few minutes for some students to verbalize their responses to the class.

c) Next, I pass out the Investigating Design Diagram student half sheet/ worksheet while I explain that we are going to get creative and see if we could find out something about risk taking behavior and digit ratios using the classroom population.

d) I probe the group verbally for questions that they would be interesting in investing. I further urge that they consider what they have learned today up until this point of the lesson. I then open the floor to listen to potential questions and move the class to eventually vote (simple vote casting system by hand count) on one of those ideas to push forward with. Students are then instructed to record the question on their IDD worksheet.

e) After reaching an investigative question consensus, I ask rhetorically what now? "Let us view a video that helps us to understand what to do with a great question like ours. I proceed to show the video below.

f) Post video, I verbally ask students, what now? How do we get an answer to our question? I follow with explaining to students that we are going to execute an investigation to collect data on a claim or hypothesis that students may have in response to the question. This leads to verbally directing students to produce a hypothesis, identify the investigation's variables and completing their plan on the data table on the IDD worksheet.

g) Finally, I ask students for a materials list, provide them with the materials requested and give them 10-15 minutes to execute their investigation and record their data on the back of their IDD sheets.

The ideas here are to loosely guide students into the development of an investigative question and provide an example of good investigative practices so that they may have confidence in developing and executing their own experimental structure in class.

Standards Covered:  SP3- Planning and carrying out investigations



20 minutes

Section Primer:

       No primer is required for this section of the lesson.

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to help students to understand the significance of presenting data in a visual format and the importance of statistical analysis of their data in science. As most students are intimidated by statistical analysis, I use an animated video which explains how to focus their data collected in the exploration part of the lesson. I present this explanatory activity in the following sequence  

a) I transition to slide 3 of the presentation and verbally ask students the following series of question (I provide wait and verbal response time before progressing from one question to the next): So now what? We have this great data, so how do we use this information to support or refute the scientific claim seen earlier (if possible) or predictions in our own hypothesis? How do we do this without bogging our reader down with too much information? 

b) After giving students ample time for input to the questions, I present them with the following video with the verbal preface of "Let's see how well we connecte our great thoughts to those of the scientific and mathematical communities". I then proceed to play the following video: Power of Numbers:

c) I stop the video at 1:02 minutes and ask: Why is statistics and how we analyze data important to as humans? I open the floor for brief discussion before moving on and repeat the same process at the specified time intervals and with corresponding questions seen below:

Stop at 3:45/How does confirmation bias interfere with the validity of statistical numbers?

Stop at 7:40/Identify ways that we can present our data from our experiment  to accommodate our visually natured brains and explain why the nature of our data's mean is significant to our interpretation of data presented?

Conclusion of Video / Are graphs better at establishing correlations from our data or causation?

d) Post video, I verbally ask students: How should we represent our data? Simultaneously, I launch this dichotomous map for students to view: We as class then examine our data and move through the chart to ascertain a specific graph type to reflect the data collected.

Standards Covered: SP4-Analyzing and interpreting data


10 minutes

Section Primer:

       Inferential Statistics: In general inferential statistics is used to test some hypothesis. It helps to address questions such as: Do groups differ on some outcome variable? Is the difference more than would be expected by chance? Can one factor predict another?

Section Instructional Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, my goal is to provide students with an opportunity to put their new skill set of investigative processes into extended practice. More specifically, students are presented with an experimental scenario and are guided through the process of applying the steps of scientific method to a different concept. I present this extension activity in the following sequence:

a) I advance to slide 4 of the presentation while telling students that we are going to put some of our scientific skills into practice before we wrap up our investigation to make certain that we understand the process. I then state that we will watch a brief video which presents a given scenario and that we will use our IDD template (projected on the screen) to fill in the investigation's specifics.

b) I then present the following video and verbally instruct students to actively consider the variables of the experiment as well other items of our methodologies while watching.

c) Post video, I redirect students attention to slide 4 and prompt students verbally to guide me through filling out the projected and blank IDD. I fill in responses as students verbally share their observations. I then revisit the graph selection diagram: and verbally prompt students to identify the best graph for this particular experiment and justify why.

d) I then ask students was a conclusion reached and if so what was it. I continue by asking what the original claim was and if there was sufficient evidence collected to support it. We engage in a facilitated class discussion to address the questions.  

e) Finally, I state to students that we should now consider our original question and scientific claims/hypothesis and attempt to reasonably address them.

Standards Covered: 

SP4-Analyzing and interpreting data

SP3-Planning and carrying out investigations. 

W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.



15 minutes

Section Primer:

         Scientific Explanation Tool: A scientific explanation tool is a graphic organizer that students utilize to focus a data set on a stated claim and simplistically structures their thinking to a) Make a claim about the problem, b) Provide evidence for the claim and c) Provide reasoning that links the evidence to the claim.       

Section Instructional Sequence:

        In this section of the lesson, my goal is to bring the investigation full circle to the initial claim presented in the exploration section of the lesson. Through graphing and the incorporation of a Scientific Explanation Tool worksheet, students further develop their cognitive abilities to process and rationalize these claims made in a streamlined fashion. I present this introductory or engagement activity in the following sequence:

a) I advance to slide 5 of the presentation and verbally announce to students that we are now going to graph our results based on the graph type selected made earlier in the lesson (Explain section) and will use to explain our hypothesis and the scientific claim stated earlier. As students complete their graphs, I check over their work to see if they have correctly identified and placed their variables on the proper axis of the graph and check for data clarity as well. 

b) I pass out the SET worksheets to students and use the projected sections of the worksheet on the screen to provide an overview on how to complete the worksheet.

c) Finally, I give students time to flesh out their thoughts on the worksheet in groups of 4 and verbally instruct students to submit their SET sheets at the conclusion of class. I monitor progress throughout this activity by circulating around the room and making myself accessible for questions or to redirect students who are off track by initiating discussion about their results. .

Standards Covered:

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data

W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.