Saturday, December 18, 2010

Getting from Pre-Testable Question to a Testable Question

I started classes by showing a pre-testable question from period 5, specifically chosen by me for its relevance to the interrelationship between plants and animals, specifically the carbon/oxygen cycle.  The title of the lesson was this question: "How are Plants and Animals related?"

I call this pre-testable because it asks about a relationship but needs to be more specific to actually be useful.  This can be turned into a more-specific, 'testable question' through a process of creating a hypothesis, and creating a question (i.e. testable question) to test that hypothesis

Thus, a pre-testable question is too general to be useful but can inspire hypothesis which then lead to a usable testable question.  The example above, "How are plants and animals related?" leads to many hypothesis.  I've highlighted hypothesis in yellow then indented testable questions indented under each hypothesis.  While I've included some more natural-language questions, others use the more explicit, "Focus Question Template" of, "How does ___ affect the ___ of ___?".  This template is powerful, learn to use it and create experimental questions at will!  I've also stated some questions in both forms.
  1. Animals eat plants.
    1. What's the favored part of a birch tree for deer? or... How does location on tree affect deer foraging?
    2. How does species of plant affect foraging by cows outside of Guatemala city?
    3. What part of anacharis do snails prefer to eat?
      1. Snails favorite part of anacharis to eat is the youngest part, the growing tip.
        1. How does age of anacharis part affect feeding by snails in aquarium?
  2. Plants use animals for seed dispersal.
    1. Which animals are most important for seed dispersal?
    2. How important are cows for the dispersal of Guanacaste species?
  3. Animals require the oxygen that plants produce.
    1. How does species affect the amount of oxygen produced by plants?
    2. How does amount of leaf surface area affect amount of oxygen produced by banana plants?
    3. How does light intensity level affect the amount of oxygen produced by spider plants?
It is evident as shown in hypothesis 1, question 3 above that there is a possible spiral relationship between hypotheses and questions, gaining specificity at each cycle.  Through this process of developing testable questions, students created many different questions and experiments, all to gain further insight on the carbon-oxygen cycle.

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