Teaching approaches: Scientific method

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Teaching Approaches

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The 'scientific method', or encouraging pupils to engage in scientific thinking (and mathematical thinking) should encourage pupils to use scientific language in reasoning tasks through active learning. The classroom resources associated with this teaching approach are particularly good for encouraging such learning, and the teacher education resources provide some further guidance.

Relevant resources


Astronomy It's full of stars
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Using a telescope and considering how those early astronomers may have worked
Astronomy(topic) has been practiced for centuries and doesn't require expensive equipment! This first session aims to train the whole class(ta) to use a telescope and, hopefully, to provide an opportunity to engage in some active learning(ta). The lesson includes some naked-eye observations and describes how modern technology helps scientists know where to look. You can explore the scientific method(ta) and language(ta) at this point, using targeted questioning(ta)/differentiation(ta). Students may be able to engage in an inquiry(ta)-based project around this work, perhaps for homework(ta).
Astronomy From Earth to Moon
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Why the efforts to get to the moon in the 1960's might make you understand why we've not returned since.
The race to the Moon was as much driven by politics as science, and this backdrop continues to influence space exploration and terrestrial research to this day. It was an amazing achievement to travel so far - guided by computers that were trivial set beside today's mobile phones. It is a story well worth telling to encourage engagement in science, scientific method(ta) as well as the understanding of the ethical(topic) context of this pursuit.
Environment Our Living Environment
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Wise up on ecology
This study module, an online booklet, deals with the particular ways of thinking about and studying of the environment. It is a useful homework(ta) resource to encourage pupils to engage with key scientific vocabulary(ta) and use their knowledge of the scientific method(ta) to engage with inquiry(ta) learning.
Force Force
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Thinking about 'force' in the national curriculum
This sessions engaged pupils in inquiry(ta) using the scientific method(ta) to explore force. It offers opportunity for teachers to use higher order questioning(ta), whole class assessment(ta) and to engage pupils in effective group work(ta) for investigation.
Forces Force in the early years
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Thinking about the language of force
This lesson idea highlights the scientific language(ta) around the topic of force, and through group work(ta) and whole class(ta) dialogue(ta) engages pupils in inquiry(ta) and the scientific method(ta) surrounding force.
Genetics Human Genome Project: from Sequencing to Sharing Genomic Information
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Discuss and share economic, political and ethical issues.
This resource provides guidance on how to use whole class(ta) discussion(ta) and/or small group work(ta) to engage students with the science and the economic, political, ethical(topic), legal and social issues of a scientific project such as the HGP. Its focus is on the scientific method(ta); language(ta) and the nature of scientific inquiry(ta).
Genetics How DNA is sequenced: the stages
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The complexity and scale of genome sequencing
Students match diagrams of the stages of DNA sequencing with a list of text descriptions of the process. The lesson can involve students discussing in pairs / group work(ta), followed by a teacher or student-led plenary. Students would share ideas, come to a consensus and check the ‘whole class(ta) response’ with their version. The teacher's questioning(ta) can focus on scientific method(ta) and use of scientific language(ta). The lesson idea provides opportunities for the effective use of assessment(ta).
Graph Variation of human characteristics - Visualising Class data
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A big survey of ourselves, measuring hands, feet and more
The lesson offers the opportunity to explore measurement, relationships between measurement, and ways to visualise and summarise this data. The use of ICT(i) allows the teacher to enter data and for pupils to immediately see the impact this has on the pie chart and frequency tables (which are automatically updated). This also allows the teacher to change the 'range' for the frequency counts, and discuss with pupils the impact of this on the pie chart, and whether this is a good representation - encouraging the use of mathematical language(ta) and scientific method(ta) throughout. In collecting the data pupils have opportunity for some self-directed group work(ta) - to measure various lengths as described below - and the teacher could use whole class(ta) questions(ta) to explore the strategies taken to conduct this investigation(ta).
ICT IT in Primary Science
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A whole book of ideas for using generic ICT tools in science
This book is a compendium of lesson ideas with ICT(i) as a key focus for use in inquiry(ta) based learning and the scientific method(ta). It offers opportunities for use of group work(ta) and collaboration(ta) as well as whole class(ta) questioning(ta).
ICT Infant and Primary Science Activities with Sensors
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A compendium of investigations with sensors in primary science.
This is a compendium of activities to engage pupils in inquiry(ta) based learning in the scientific method(ta), often making effective use of ICT(i) and sensors(tool). The activities involve whole class(ta) questioning(ta) and collaborative(ta) group work(ta).
ICT Primary Science Curriculum Activities with Sensors
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A compendium of investigations with sensors in primary science
This resource provides a set of activities to engage pupils in inquiry(ta) based learning in the scientific method(ta), often making effective use of ICT(i) and sensors(tool). The activities involve whole class(ta) questioning(ta) and collaborative(ta) group work(ta).
ICT IT in Secondary Science
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A whole book of ideas for using generic ICT tools in science
This book provides resources and lesson ideas with ICT(i) as a key focus for use in inquiry(ta) based learning and the scientific method(ta). It offers opportunities for use of group work(ta) and collaboration(ta) as well as whole class(ta) questioning(ta).
ICT Data Logging and Control
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A compendium with numerous ideas for using sensors to teach science.
This book provides a set of resources and lesson ideas with ICT(i) as a key focus for use in inquiry(ta) based learning and the scientific method(ta). It offers opportunities for use of group work(ta) and collaboration(ta) as well as whole class(ta) questioning(ta).
Literacy Developing Language in Primary Science
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The resource would be particularly useful for PGCE students thinking about incorporating cross-curricular(subject) strands, or teachers looking to do the same, either in their own practice or in new curriculum development(topic) work.

Language development and the use of appropriate vocabulary(ta) is highlighted as important across the curriculum. Incorporating this consideration into science planning(ta) is important for meeting the target of developing language. The importance of language and talk in science – including through group work(ta), and Whole class(ta) dialogue – is highlighted elsewhere (and in the resource) but includes the ability to explain concepts, understand synthesising ideas (including those from other people and texts), and the need to read and write for different purposes, (including conceptual understanding, data presentation, etc). These are key ideas in communicating the scientific method(ta)

Living things Classifying and organising living things using images
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Find different ways to classify living things
This lesson offers opportunities to explore ways to classify living things as well as characteristics which might be relevant, and how to address difficulties that may arise when trying to classify things in this way. The activity may be enhanced by the use of ICT(i) software (e.g. Picasa) but could be carried out with paper-based resources.

This lesson presents a good opportunity for small group work(ta) and some inquiry(ta) into how we classify; and why some classification methods might be more useful, or more scientifically interesting than others. There is also a good opportunity to use different sorts of questioning(ta); to encourage pupils to question each other; to engage in peer assessment(ta) and to focus discussion(ta) on the scientific method(ta) using key vocabulary(ta).

Measuring Measuring Light - Light and Dark
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Light can be light, dark or somewhere in between
This lesson involves the use of higher order questioning(ta) on scientific method(ta) topics to engage pupils in an inquiry(ta) relating to the nature of light, its measurement, and the use of sensors.
Measuring Measuring Light - Does light shine through everything?
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Using a sensor to see what's transparent and translucent
This lesson involves the use of higher order questioning(ta) on scientific method(ta) topics to engage pupils in an inquiry(ta) relating to the nature of light, its measurement, and the use of sensors.
Measuring Monitoring Temperature - Day and Night
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What happens to the room's temperature when I'm not here?
This lesson involves the use of higher order questioning(ta) on scientific method(ta) topics to engage pupils in an inquiry(ta) relating to recording temperature and the use of sensors.
Reading skills Reading and discussing popular science articles
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Read. Get the world's view and see how science works for real
The resource relates to the importance of:
  • Scientific literacy(topic).
  • Science citizenship(topic) - understanding science in its context.
  • Literacy - understanding the role of different media in dissemination.
  • Scientific understanding of particular concepts chosen.
  • scientific language(ta).
  • scientific method(ta).

It can be delivered through a combination of homework(ta) (perhaps to find an interesting article), group work(ta) to explore various articles (perhaps in a carousel), and/or use of ICT(i) including PowerPoint files to encourage students to present an area they are interested in.

Sampling Sampling techniques to assess population size
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This lesson offers students an opportunity to use their existing knowledge to analyse a ‘real scientific publication’ and its language(ta) and link this to scientific method(ta).
  • They use study skills(topic) to skim read, make sense of complex language, and use visualisation(ta) to select relevant information
  • They engage in collaborative(tool) group work(ta) using reasoning(ta) and skills in peer assessment(ta)
  • They engage in dialogue(ta) and questioning(ta) to explore ideas together
  • They also think about how to present information using ICT(i) tools)
Science Primary Science Investigation
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What is involved in 'doing a science investigation'? And what is there to assess?
This resource describes the process of doing an investigation for inquiry(ta)-based learning. Teachers could share practice(i) and lesson planning(ta) ideas using the list of pupil skills (e.g. observing). It also lists learning goals for investigation skills (e.g. observing, predicting, problem solving) and ideas for exploring different types of practical work(ta) in science.

It could be used for discussion(ta) or brainstorming on how to apply these skills to different content areas. The resource emphasises engaging pupils in the scientific method(ta) - using higher order(ta) thinking skills, group work(ta) and dialogue(ta) to facilitate knowledge building(ta)/reasoning(ta).

Using images Organising images for a narrative
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Write an essay without words
The lesson encourages students to think about how to portray their knowledge through narrative(ta) - which may engage some students who would usually be less interested. The lesson encourages students to think about how to capture valuable information and ensure that key elements are highlighted while not 'overloading' the viewer with data. The lesson can be tailored to any age group - for younger pupils the task could be to take before and after photos and label them. More advanced pupils might explore time-lapse photography. Pupils should be encouraged to think about how this relates to the scientific method(ta) The task is interactive and could be conducted as a group work(ta) activity or as an element of an inquiry-based learning project. It could also lend itself to whole class(ta) dialogue(ta) and the use of ICT(i) including 'clicker' response systems for assessment(ta) and questioning(ta).