Writing a scientific research question for independent investigation in the high school laboratory
Schaefer, Pamela J.
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Although many professional science organizations and educational researchers continue to call for student engagement in authentic scientific inquiry, much of what transpires in todays' high school science laboratories resemble the more traditional, step-by-step "cookbook" style investigation. In my experience I have found that even advanced science students find it difficult to generate a research question of personal interest, scientific significance and empirical feasibility. The focus of this project was on teaching and guiding a small group of 10 high school seniors in writing testable scientific questions, ultimately for their own independent research. In addition, I examined ways to improve student understanding of the nature of science (NOS) and assessed how student confidence levels in undertaking scientific research and in writing scientific questions may be impacted. Using a series of teaching modules, group discussion, online data sets and rubric-scored tasks, students practiced and refined the skills needed to become proficient in formulating quality scientific questions. A variety of data collection methods were used in order to gauge student progress and success. These included quizzes, surveys, student interviews and scored assessment tasks. An analysis of the data indicates consequential improvement in the quality of written scientific questions, improved comprehension of nature of science concepts and an overall rise in student confidence.