Scientifically testable questions

I found this in my in-box. Interesting. Does it all ring true for you (all questions, 2 categories?)? The language of student/teacher makes me think this might be most useful for those of you thinking about K-12 connections with local educators or your partnerships with teachers internationally.

Scientifically testable questions

from http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih6/inquiry/guide/info_process-c.htm#testable

Doing Science–Information about the Process of Scientific Inquiry

Students are naturally curious and often spontaneously ask questions. Questions foster students’ interest in science, leading them to make observations and conduct investigations.6 Asking questions is part of the process of scientific inquiry, but not all questions can be answered using scientific investigations. Questions can be divided into two categories: existence and causal. Existence questions, which often begin with why, generally require recall of factual knowledge.4, 6 Causal questions, which begin with how, what if, does, and I wonder, can be addressed through scientific investigations.6 True cause and effect is very difficult to prove scientifically. Often, scientists rely on statistical and other analytical methods to determine the likelihood that certain relationships exist.

Science answers questions that are different from those answered by other ways of knowing. Testable questions are answered through observations or experiments that provide evidence. Students need guidance and practice to be able to distinguish questions that are testable from those that are not. A testable question meets these criteria:

  • The question centers on objects, organisms, and events in the natural world.
  • The question connects to scientific concepts rather than to opinions, feelings, or beliefs.
  • The question can be investigated through experiments or observations.
  • The question leads to gathering evidence and using data to explain how the natural world works.

As students develop their understanding of scientific inquiry, they should be able to generate their own testable questions. Students who are inexperienced with scientific inquiry ask factual questions more frequently because they are easy to generate. Students ask more meaningful questions once they have had more experience asking questions and have learned how questions influence the design of an investigation.3, 5 Teachers can improve the questioning skills of students through the following strategies:

  • providing examples of testable questions,5
  • encouraging students to formulate their own questions and responding positively to students’ spontaneous questions,4
  • providing materials that stimulate questions,3, 4
  • providing students with opportunities to explore information related to their questions,5 and
  • providing students with feedback and the opportunity to change factual questions into testable questions or to generate new questions.4, 5

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