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SEP3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Students should have opportunities to plan and carry out several different kinds of investigations during their K-12 years. At all levels, they should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher - in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own (e.g., measuring specific properties of materials) - to those that emerge from students' own questions. (NRC Framework 2012, p. 61)


Introduction to SEP3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

from NGSS Appendix F: Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS

Students should have opportunities to plan and carry out several different kinds of investigations during their K-12 years. At all levels, they should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher—in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own (e.g., measuring specific properties of materials)—to those that emerge from students’ own questions. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61)  

Scientific investigations may be undertaken to describe a phenomenon, or to test a theory or model for how the world works. The purpose of engineering investigations might be to find out how to fix or improve the functioning of a technological system or to compare different solutions to see which best solves a problem. Whether students are doing science or engineering, it is always important for them to state the goal of an investigation, predict outcomes, and plan a course of action that will provide the best evidence to support their conclusions. Students should design investigations that generate data to provide evidence to support claims they make about phenomena. Data aren’t evidence until used in the process of supporting a claim. Students should use reasoning and scientific ideas, principles, and theories to show why data can be considered evidence.  

Over time, students are expected to become more systematic and careful in their methods. In laboratory experiments, students are expected to decide which variables should be treated as results or outputs, which should be treated as inputs and intentionally varied from trial to trial, and which should be controlled, or kept the same across trials. In the case of field observations, planning involves deciding how to collect different samples of data under different conditions, even though not all conditions are under the direct control of the investigator. Planning and carrying out investigations may include elements of all of the other practices. 


Distinguishing Practices In Science from Those In Engineering

from A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (page 50)

3. Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Scientific investigation may be conducted in the field or the laboratory. A major practice of scientists is planning and carrying out a systematic investigation, which requires the identification of what is to be recorded and, if applicable, what are to be treated as the dependent and independent variables (control of variables). Observations and data collected from such work are used to test existing theories and explanations or to revise and develop new ones. Engineers use investigation both to gain data essential for specifying design criteria or parameters and to test their designs. Like scientists, engineers must identify relevant variables, decide how they will be measured, and collect data for analysis. Their investigations help them to identify how effective, efficient, and durable their designs may be under a range of conditions.

 


K-12 Progressions

from NGSS Appendix F: Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS

K-2 3-5 6-8 9-12
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations 

Scientists and engineers plan and carry out investigations in the field or laboratory, working collaboratively as well as individually. Their investigations are systematic and require clarifying what counts as data and identifying variables or parameters.  

Engineering investigations identify the effectiveness, efficiency, and durability of designs under different conditions. 

Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in K–2 builds on prior experiences and progresses to simple investigations, based on fair tests, which provide data to support explanations or design solutions.

Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 3-5 builds on prior experiences and progresses to include investigations that control variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions.

Planning and carrying out investigations in 6-8 builds on K-5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or solutions.

Planning and carrying out investigations in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to include investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models.

With guidance, plan and conduct an investigation in collaboration with peers (for K). 

Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer a question. 
Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered.
Plan an investigation individually and collaboratively, and in the design: identify independent and dependent variables and controls, what tools are needed to do the gathering, how measurements will be recorded, and how many data are needed to support a claim. 

Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation.
Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible confounding variables or effects and evaluate the investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled. 

Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly. 

Plan and conduct an investigation or test a design solution in a safe and ethical manner including considerations of environmental, social, and personal impacts.
Evaluate different ways of observing and/or measuring a phenomenon to determine which way can answer a question.
Evaluate appropriate methods and/or tools for collecting data.
Evaluate the accuracy of various methods for collecting data.
Select appropriate tools to collect, record, analyze, and evaluate data.
Make observations (firsthand or from media) and/or measurements to collect data that can be used to make comparisons.

Make observations (firsthand or from media) and/or measurements of a proposed object or tool or solution to determine if it solves a problem or meets a goal.

Make predictions based on prior experiences.
Make observations and/or measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.

Make predictions about what would happen if a variable changes.

Test two different models of the same proposed object, tool, or process to determine which meets criteria for success.
Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions.

Collect data about the performance of a proposed object, tool, process, or system under a range of conditions.
Make directional hypothses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.

Manipulate variables and collect data about a complex model to identify failure point or improve performance relative to criteria for success or other variables.


Goals for SEP3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

from A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (page 60)

By grade 12, students should be able to 

  • Formulate a question that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, school laboratory, or field with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis (that is, a possible explanation that predicts a particular and stable outcome) based on a model or theory. 
  • Decide what data are to be gathered, what tools are needed to do the gathering, and how measurements will be recorded. 
  • Decide how much data are needed to produce reliable measurements and consider any limitations on the precision of the data. 
  • Plan experimental or field-research procedures, identifying relevant independent and dependent variables and, when appropriate, the need for controls. 
  • Consider possible confounding variables or effects and ensure that the investigation’s design has controlled for them.

Performance Expectations Associated with SEP3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

K-2 3-5 6-8 9-12
K-PS2-1
K-PS3-1
1-PS4-1
1-PS4-3
1-ESS1-2
2-PS1-1
2-LS2-1
2-LS4-1
3-PS2-1
3-PS2-2
4-PS3-2
4-ESS2-1
5-PS1-3
5-PS1-4
3-5-ETS1-3
MS-PS2-2
MS-PS2-5
MS-PS3-4
MS-LS1-1
MS-ESS2-5
HS-PS1-3
HS-PS2-5
HS-PS3-4
HS-LS1-3
HS-ESS2-5


Additional Resources

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (pages 59-61)

Science Practices Continuum - Students' Performance
This tool is a continuum for each practice that shows how students' performance can progress over time. A teacher can use the continuum to assess students' abilities to engage in the practices and to inform future instruction. From Instructional Leadership for Science Practices.

Science Practices Continuum - Supervision
This tool is a continuum for each practice that shows how instruction can progress over time. An instructional supervisor can use the continuum to identify the current level for a practice in a science lesson. Then the supervisor can provide feedback, such as offering instructional strategies to help move future instruction farther along the continuum. From Instructional Leadership for Science Practices.

Potential Instructional Strategies for Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
This instructional strategies document provide examples of strategies that teachers can use to support the science practice. Supervisors might share these strategies with teachers as they work on improving instruction of the science practices. Teachers might find these helpful for lesson planning and implementing science practices in their classrooms. From Instructional Leadership for Science Practices.

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations: An Entry to Learning and to Teacher Professional Development Around NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
Richard Duschl and Rodger W. Bybee. International Journal of STEM Education, 2014.

Bozemanscience Video

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