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The ‘predict, observe, explain’ strategy developed by White and Gunstone (1992) prompts students to predict the outcome of an experiment, then do the experiment and, finally, to explain their reasons for the prediction and the outcome. Joyce (2006) points out that, unless students are asked to predict first what will happen, they may not experiment carefully. She further argues that recording their prediction motivates students to find out answers and that explaining and evaluating predictions and listening to others’ predictions and explanations helps students to evaluate their learning and construct new meanings.

The research

This project was undertaken over one term to investigate how teachers at different levels of schooling used and adapted Science Learning Hub (SLH) resources for their science teaching.

In this research brief, we examine how two primary teachers, Mary and Cilla, adapted the Colour and taste activity in advance of teaching to include a prediction column. Data was collected through videotapes, audiotapes, observations, field notes, interviews, student work and teaching materials.

Findings

The adaptation addition described here was part of a series of activities related to the five senses that Mary and Cilla’s students worked through. The original SLH activity asked students to name the drink colour, taste the drink and then record the taste in a results table. Mary and Cilla asked the students to observe and record the colour of each drink but also asked students to independently write their predictions of what they thought the flavour of the drink would be before tasting.

Following the prediction, students taste tested and then recorded the flavour. In between each taste test, they rinsed their mouths with water to ensure ‘fairness’. Students were highly engaged throughout.

At the conclusion of their taste testing, students reviewed their findings through a whole-class discussion. Students in both classes were shown the package of the colourless raspberry drink and were surprised to find out that every drink was the same flavour – raspberry.

The lesson ended here with the whole-class discussion in Cilla’s class. When interviewed, her students were not entirely convinced that the samples they tasted were the same, although they believed that their teacher would not dupe them. As Dan (8 years) commented, “The taste experiment was a bit confusing because Miss R actually had put all those things the same, but she put in different food colours. I think the food colouring changed the flavour.” Ellie (8 years) disagreed with Dan. She said, “No, it only changed the colour. I knew the yellow was not banana, that it might have been raspberry, but it would be weird to write raspberry for all of them.” The next day, Cilla extended the conversation about the influence of colour on flavour with a follow-up discussion.

Like Cilla’s students Mary’s students were not convinced by the package alone that their drinks were all flavoured raspberry. Mary considered their doubt, and because she had time, she adapted on the spot by adding on extra testing opportunities. She called a group of students to the front of the class, and with eyes closed, they each tasted a different-coloured drink sample. With their eyes still closed, they were to indicate raspberry by putting up their thumbs. All did. Some observing students remained unconvinced. So Mary repeated the eyes-closed testing with another group of students with the same result (all thumbs up).

In light of this consistent evidence, all students were now convinced that the drinks were the same flavour despite their different colours. They concluded that the colours had influenced what they thought the flavours were.

The drinks [experiments] helped us prove that colour doesn’t matter to flavour… But the colour helped you get ready. It tastes a little like you thought it would be by the colour.

As a final task, students in both classes individually wrote their own conclusions. For example, Nancy (8 years) wrote: “I believe that scientists are right that when you see a colour you think of a flavour.” Interview comments confirmed this understanding. For example, Tom (8 years) said, “The drinks [experiments] helped us prove that colour doesn’t matter to flavour… But the colour helped you get ready. It tastes a little like you thought it would be by the colour.”

Concluding comment

As an adaptation in advance, the addition of a prediction column to the SLH colour-flavour student worksheet was a thoughtful way to help students undertake scientific inquiry in a more investigative manner. When students make predictions, they become engaged and motivated to test their predictions. They become involved in the scientific process through developing an idea (prediction), collecting data and reviewing ideas in the light of evidence and through discussion of results. In this case, the teachers’ adaptive expertise came into play when they adjusted the SLH task prior to teaching. Mary’s adaptive expertise was also evident when she responded in the moment to what she noticed about students’ understandings by improvising the extra taste-testing activities.

References

Joyce, C. (2006). Predict, observe, explain (POE) http://arb.nzcer.org.nz/strategies/poe.php

White, R.T. & Gunstone, R.F. (1992). Probing understanding. Great Britain: Falmer Press.

 

    Published 26 August 2014