In order to prepare students to eventually design their own experiment, the instructor should insist on having their students write up their scientific investigations using the proper method. Since one of my goals is to heighten students interest in science, I feel that it is necessary to include this small segment explaining the scientific method so that you can show your students how scientists work.
The first step of the scientific method is to come up with a good title for the experiment. Titles are often stated in the form of a question. Just from reading the title, anyone should automatically know the problem that a child is trying to solve in their experiment. For example: “What Effect Does Temperature Have on the Respiration Rate of a Fish”. From the title we know that the student is trying to find out if the temperature of water changes the rate at which a fish breathes.
Thinking scientifically, the student should try to find possible solutions the problem through researching information about the problem he is trying to solve. The information that he finds should aid the child in forming an hypothesis during the third stage of the scientific method, and help the child in writing the introduction.
The second stage of the scientific method should be titled the introduction. The student, in paragraph format, should briefly write some sort of introductory statement which addresses such questions as, why he chose to do the particular experiment and why is it worth spending time on. The child should also include some background information about how the fish breathes or how they react in warm verses cold water, or how they are cold-blooded animals, etc....
The third step of the scientific method requires the child making an educated guess about what he is experimenting on. The educated guess is called an hypothesis. Using the previous example, a typical hypothesis for this experiment would be: As the temperature of the water increases, the fish respiration rate would increase also.
In the fourth step called the procedure, have the student to list the material that is needed to do the experiment as well as provide the basic details as to how the experiment will be performed. This should be a detailed description and a step by step procedure of how the student could test his problem. Anyone reading the experiment should be able to collect the materials needed to perform the investigation and duplicate the experiment by reading the procedures.
The fifth step called observations. The student records any pertinent information about their findings while performing the experiment. Whenever possible the student should use charts, graphs, tables or pictures to depict information.
The final step of the scientific method is the conclusion. Here the student analyzes the data the he has placed in his observations and formulates a conclusion. This section is also be done in a paragraph format. The student should also state whether or not his hypothesis was correct.
Keep in mind that in order for the student to fully understand how this method is employed, the instructor must walk the child through a sample experiment explaining how each step is done. It is also important the student realizes that once the hypothesis is made it should not be changed during the experiment. Remember that it is only a guess as to the outcome of the experiment, the important thing is that the conclusion at the end is correct. The conclusion either proves or disproves the hypothesis.
During any experiment or scientific research the teacher should constantly encourage students to ask questions, reach an educated guess, and to design some type of experiment to figure out if their hypothesis is correct.