Student Research Plan Development!

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Objective

Students will craft a well-rounded research question and structured research plan.

Big Idea

Research plan development requires the careful construction of a researchable question and supporting procedures with well defined variables.

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

           Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. With this type of learning, students are not only active and engaged in learning but are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying. And while PBL in the science classroom may serve to inspire a number of future scientists, research indicates that hands-on learning can also significantly contribute to students gaining the 21st century skills they’ll need as they develop into the next generation of business owners, innovators, managers, and employees. Among these skills are:

  • Scientific investigation: develop an idea, plan an experiment, conduct an experiment
  • Project management: manage a project and meet deadlines
  • Scientific analysis: keep a logbook, analyze data, create a chart or graph
  • Communication: write results, create a presentation board, present and discuss results

Incidentally, these skills are as critical to the success of those in the sciences as to those in financial services, healthcare, transportation, public service, and other industries. In essence, granting students the opportunity to partake in science projects or PBL opportunities not only enhance their understanding of content introduced in the classroom, but has the potential to prepare students for life.  

    A model organism is a species that has been widely studied, usually because it is easy to maintain and breed in a laboratory setting and has particular experimental advantages. Over the years, a great deal of data has accumulated about such organisms and this in itself makes them more attractive to study. Model organisms are used to obtain information about other species – including humans – that are more difficult to study directly.

    Caenorhabditis elegans  is a free-living (not parasitic), transparent nematode (roundworm), about 1 mm in length, that lives in temperate soil environments. As one of the first organisms to have their genome and nervous system mapped, C elegans have gained notoriety in the research community as ideal model organisms.

     In this short term project, students use the model organism C. elegans characteristics to assess the impact of environmental factors (BPA, Nicotine and Heavy Metals) on human nervous systems through the project based learning style. This lesson, the first of a three day research process, guides students through the research plan development process which will be utilized as a procedural blueprint during days 2 and 3 of the process. 

Prerequisite Knowledge: It is recommended that students be familiar with the structure and function of a neuron, the concept of neurotransmission, the action potential mechanism, nerve cell structure/function, and general knowledge of C. elegans (see lesson) form & behaviors. 

Lesson Preparations:

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

a) A class set of Research Plan example (1 copy of the plan per student) 

b) Student lab books.

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

W.11-12.7- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Standards Rationale:

      Keeping students abreast of current topics in science can be challenging if it doesn't fit into their repertoire of current affairs. When we however incorporate current science topics and research into our lessons, we can motivate students to learn and sometimes even change their attitudes about science. For instance, students who are exposed to current scientific research questions and methods discover that we live in a world with more questions than answers. Students can then apply their critical reasoning skills and creativity to discuss the scientists’ questions, design their own experiments, and test hypotheses which can be an empowering experience for student and teacher alike.

      Modeling is the process by which scientists represent ideas about the natural world to each other, and then collaboratively make changes to these representations over time in response to new evidence and understandings. It is intimately connected to other scientific processes (asking questions, communicating information, etc.) and improves students ability to recall scientific jargon through association. In the classroom, it is important that teachers engage students in modeling practices, to set the foundation of success in a lesson or instructional unit, or in this case a short term research project. In this lesson, modeling is used in concert with other science practices in the classroom to promote students’ reasoning and understanding of core science idea presented (animal models in research.) 

Engage

10 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Ask students: How many of you regularly visit theme parks? Poll the class by a simple raise of hand call. Then ask: Have any of you encountered any of the following experiences during your visits: 

Play video

     

b) Poll the class at the conclusion of the video. Ask the whole class, what questions might the public have for amusement parks after these sorts of incidents? Discuss. Then ask, what kind of questions do you think that scientists (keep this generic for the purpose of the next exercise) might have after these sorts of incidents? Why do you think these questions may be different?

In this Q and A session, I am looking to see if students are able to differentiate between questions asked by inviduals who generally don't consider the science of amusement park rides versus those who investigated the science behind the mechanics of these rides. The discussion should lead to students understanding that knowledge bases dictate the level of questioning. 

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

Explore

20 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Share with students that when problems arise (environmental problems, mechanical problems, etc.) in the world like those seen in the video that it takes a line of specific questions from knowledgeable individuals before the problem can be strategically approached. As such, it is worth taking the time to develop sound scientific questions. 

b) Introduce students to the idea of a Research Topic Triangle (a graphic organizer to develop specific questions) via the following examples: Example 1 and Example 2.  

c) Instruct students to assemble in pairs and to utilize this graphic organizer to develop a scientifically sound question about the roller coaster problem in their lab books. 

d) Share out examples as a class and discuss with the group if they found the process to be difficult and/or helpful. Ask, what might be a reasonable next step towards rectifying the roller coaster problem.

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

Explain

20 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Tell students that much like the roller coaster problem, the envrionmental & health toxins that we have been studying require further study (especially on the nervous system) and thus must begin with a well refined question. Share that since they will be studying these areas in detail that they should learn how to craft their research questions carefully as it dictates all that follow, including the items that students shared at the conclusion of the previous section. Proceed to present the following: Crafting a Research Question Prezi and point out items that students have already put into practice during the presentation.

b) Follow up the presentation with providing students an opportunity to practice critiquing Research Questions. Provide student pairs with a different question strip and instruct them to verbally critique its strength as a solid research question. Share responses as class after 5 minutes or so. 

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

Extend

25 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Share with students that beyond a well crafted question, that we need to produce an investigation that complement its goals. For instance, in the case of the derailed rides, we want to insure a quality resolution to avoid future occurrences and must therefore, create a well thought out plan that the public can feel confident in. We call this a research plan. In short, this is what it covers. Proceed to play the following video while encouraging students to take notes on the process in their lab books.

        

b) Post video, summarize the steps with students.

c) Share with students that within this process and to assure that our research data or output is a reflection of our research plan that variables within our procedures must be well defined and controlled to better explain how this is done. Proceed to play the following video and discuss any ambiguities post video. During the video, students should record notes in their lab books.  

       

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

Evaluate

15 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Share with students that since they now have a better understanding of how to produce a basic research plan that will allow for them to discover more about a situation like the amusement park problem, that they will take time practice assessing various scenarios for research plan constituents before producing their own for their own research endeavors. Provide students with a copy of the following worksheet: Assessing scientific scenarios. Allow for them to work through the scenarios with their partners before reviewing the examples as a class. 

b) Provide students with a copy of the Research Plan (see attachment) and share that it is now their turn to develop a research plan to assess the impact of a toxin of choice (BPA, Nicotine, or Select Heavy Metals- Copper, Cadmium, or Zinc) on the nervous system on the model organism C elegans. Assign for students to complete the following sections of the research plan for homework: Project Question, Introduction, Hypothesis, Procedure/Materials (combined), and data list. See student example attached.

Note: this activity starts in class and is completed for homework. 

c) Use the attached rubric to grade student work. 

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

W.11-12.7- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.