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TopicX BasicScience

3
1. 2. 3. 4.

ProcessSkillsII

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to: Discuss the skill of communicating as a science process skill; Describe the skill of making an inference; Differentiate between inferences and observations; and Describe the skill of predicting.

X INTRODUCTION
During our school days, we must have read about the belief of people of ancient times that the Earth was flat. Do you still remember what happened to Galileo when he claimed that the Earth was actually a sphere? So which is more important, teaching children with scientific knowledge or teaching them how to do science? The history of science shows that theories and so called scientific knowledge change over time as new and more information become available. Simply providing a person with some scientific knowledge will never turn the person to become a scientist. Since science is by doing, helping children to develop their natural scientific skills will help them to learn science. In Topic 2 you have learnt about three basic science process skills. In this topic, you will learn about another three basic science process skills: communicating, making inferences and predicting. You will study about the skill of

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communicating as a science process skill and the tools that will help us communicate. We are also going to look into the meaning of making inferences and predicting and the difference between these two skills and the skill of observing. You will also carry out hands-on activities for each of these skills.

3.1

COMMUNICATING

Have you gone a day without saying a single word to anyone? It is almost impossible for any normal human being not to utter a word for a day. Communication is almost a must for a normal human being every day. We need to share our thoughts, ideas, feelings or observations. Our ability to share our information with others is basic to everything we do. Scientists too need to make the information from their research available to the scientific community. They need to communicate their thoughts, ideas and research findings. Otherwise their research would go to waste. Communication is the key to sharing the scientific methods with others. By doing so, discussion and analysis on the research findings can be done. This is the key driver to advancements in science. Communicating means changing data or information gathered through observation into a form that can be understood by other people. Thus communicating goes hand in hand with observing. When we communicate to someone about what we observed, we are actually sharing our observation with that person. Communication is the process of sharing our ideas to create shared understanding or shared meaning.

ACTIVITY 3.1
Take out your wallet or purse. Think of how you might describe it to someone so that she could draw it from your description. Write down your description. Now ask two of your friends to make a drawing of your wallet or purse based on your description. Ask them to colour the drawing as well. Explain in detail if they cannot figure out the colour or what the wallet or purse looks like. Compare the two drawings. Are they the same? Show the wallet or purse to them. Let them comment on your description. This activity shows the effectiveness of your communicating skill.

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3.1.1

Tools of Communicating

In order to develop good communication skills, we need to practice. Do you realise that sometimes when we are talking about what we have observed or read to others, we suddenly discover new ideas or new meanings? The same goes for students when they talk about what they are learning or discover new ways to construct their thinking. There are many tools we can use to help us in communicating science. Learning to use these tools will help us communicate our ideas or observations effectively. The tools that can be used for communication are shown in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1: Tools of communication

Are you familiar with all the tools in Figure 3.1? (a) Data Tables and Graphs Data tables and graphs are the tools that we always use almost every time we write a report for an experiment. A data table will help to organise the data, and a graph illustrates the correlation between dependent and independent variables. Diagrams Diagrams support written text. They make the abstract become concrete. Diagrams also reinforce key messages. Symbols Symbols are used to synthesise information, communicate scientific findings or establish research priorities. Science communication products

(b)

(c)

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such as posters, papers, newsletters usually have symbols. Can you imagine science without symbols? (d) Map A map is a visual representation of an area. A good map has a title, symbols, a key and a scale. An early and most worthy use of a map is the famous dot map of Dr John Snow who plotted the location of deaths from cholera in central London for September 1854. Study Figure 3.2. Deaths were marked by dots and the areas eleven water pumps were located by crosses. Examining the scattered distribution over the surface of the map, Snow observed that cholera occurred almost entirely among those who lived near and (drank from) the Broad Street water pump. He had the handle of the contaminated pump removed, ending the neighbourhood epidemic which had taken over 500 lives. A contaminated water pump in Broad Street proved to be the source for the spread of cholera (Drawn by Dr John Snow about 1854; shown in Stamp, L. D. 1964, AnGeography of Life and Death.).

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Figure 3.2: Dr. John Snows cholera map of 1854 Source: www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat/s snow_m map.htm

(e)

Mind maps You must be familiar with mind maps. A mind map is a tool to visually outline information. Charts Graphic organisers like charts are found to be effective with students who are struggling with learning content. A chart is a sheet of information in the form of a table, graph or diagram. A chart can be used to introduce a topic, to activate students prior knowledge, to analyse concepts and to synthesise what has been learnt. Let us look at Table 3.1. Will it help your students to understand the features of a butterfly?

(f)

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Table 3.1: Descriptive Feature Chart for a Butterfly Body Parts Antennae Head Number 2 1 Colour & Shape Black, straight line Black, round Position On head Front of thorax Behind head Behind thorax Attached to thorax Attached to thorax Appearance Thin Tiny, big eyes Bigger than head Black dots, 8 parts 4 long, 2 short Large, colourful

Thorax Abdomen Legs Wings

1 1 6 2

Red and black, oval Yellow, long oval Black, straight line Yellow and black, curve

Source: Using graphic organisers in literature-based science instruction. . www.readingrockets.org/article/42321

(g)

Concept Map A concept map of a science concept explains the authors concept of the particular science concept. Figure 3.3 shows the concept of plants based on an authors understanding. Through the concept map the author is communicating to us his concept of plants. Can you understand the authors meaning of plants? Do you agree with him? You can construct your own concept map of plants based on your own understanding of plants.

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Figure 3.3: A concept mapofplants Source: Constructivism in the classroom: mapping your way through. Ian M. Kinchin (1998) www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/000000811.htm

Can you suggest any other tool that can be used in communicating science?

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ACTIVITY 3.2
1. How good can you communicate using a map? (a) (b) Place an object in the store room of your school laboratory. Construct a map of the laboratory and the store. Mark the place where you put the object. There must be no writing or labelling on the map. Give your map to one student outside the lab. Ask the student to locate where the object is.

(c) (d)

How good is your map? Can the student find the object? 2. Choose any topic from the primary science syllabus. Study the topic and draw a mind map for the topic. Compare your mind map with your friends mind map. Is there any difference between the two? Discuss how you can make the mind map more accurate. In what way is a mind map suitable for communicating science?

3.

4.

3.2

MAKING AN INFERENCE

We make inferences every day. Study Figure 3.4. When we see a man dressed like a policeman in a police car, we quickly infer him as a policeman.

Figure 3.4: Making an inference about the policeman

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When we sit down to do our work, we infer that the chair is strong enough to support our weight. Most of the time, we make inferences without thinking. This is because we have already recognised the pattern and expect it to reoccur. See Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.5: Making an inference

Inference is not just a guess, but it is a very good guess, based on the pattern we recognise and is based on evidence. It is choosing the most likely explanation from the facts available. Scientists make inferences based on evidence that they have.

3.2.1

Difference between Observations and Inferences

Do you remember what an observation is? Yes, an observation is using one or more senses to identify the characteristics, changes, similarities and differences in objects. An inference is an explanation or interpretation of an observation. We make inferences based on a recognised pattern that we observe. Study Figure 3.6 below. What is the observation and inference here?

Figure 3.6: Observation and inference

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Observation: Inference:

Dead fish No one fed the fish

When we observe something, we will try to explain or to interpret it. We will use our past experiences to understand what we observed. The statement we use to explain what is observed is what we call an inference.

SELF-CHECK 3.1
What is the difference between an observation and an inference? Use an example to illustrate your answer.

Observing provides us with data, so when we are observing we are actually gathering as much data as we can. So, an observation can be called the process of gathering data. As we are gathering data from the observation, we will try to make sense of the data, try to understand it and give an explanation about the data. So, an inference is an explanation about the collected data. It is the conclusion drawn out of careful observation. In other words, inferences are based on observations. Study the following statements and identify which is an observation and which is an inference. x x x x x The grass on the offices front lawn is wet. The sprinkler was on. The school fire alarm is going off. They are having a fire drill. The flag outside is waving; It must be windy out there. I can see through the window, people are walking with umbrellas or wearing rain coats. It must be raining. She was very weak. When I touched her forehead, it was very hot. She must be sick. Inferences made by us can be right or wrong. To make a good inference we have to make as many observations as possible. One important aspect in observation is attention. The more attentive we are, the better inferences we can make. Another

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aspect is the information related to the object or event. If we have rich information about the object or event we can make a better inference. Inference is very crucial in evaluating circumstances and decision making. To make good inferences, we must have ample data and evidence. Scientists use observation to study the world but they cannot always observe everything directly. Sometimes they use evidence to make inferences. Let us see how scientists use evidence to study how and what dinosaurs eat (see Table 3.2).
Table 3.2: How Scientists Make Inferences

What question is the scientist investigating? x How and what did dinosaurs eat? x What evidence does the scientist use? Fossil dinosaur droppings x x What inferences does the scientist make? The dinosaur was a T. Rex It ate smaller dinosaurs and crushed bones as it ate

Source: Teaching About How Scientists Make Inferences - www.readingrockets.org

In this case, observations were not made directly but indirectly on the evidenceof the fossil dinosaur droppings. The inference was made by careful observation of the droppings. Now let us test your skill in making some inferences of your own.

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ACTIVITY 3.3
Scenario Two boys, A and B, were standing outside the discipline teachers room dirt smeared on their faces. You could hear their teachers voice talking to the discipline teacher. A sneered at B and B returned an angry glare. List down your inferences. Some inference statements we can make from this scenario are: (a) (b) A and B had been fighting, because there are dirt smeared on their faces Both are still annoyed at each other, A sneered at B and B returned an angry glare.

Compare your inferences with your friends.

ACTIVITY 3.4
Do this in pairs. Give your pen to your partner and ask him to make some inferences about the pen. Get his pen and make your own inferences about the pen. To get you started, the examples below might be helpful. Observations The pen body is translucent. It is very light. There are some scratches on the pen. Make as many inferences as you can. Exchange your list of inferences with your partners list. How good is your skill to make inferences? Inferences The pen is made from plastic. It has been used for a few weeks.

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3.3
Son Mama Son Mama

PREDICTING
: : : : Mama, what will Malaysias population be in 2015? What? Why? I want to learn how to make a prediction. Dear, predicting is something that a fortune teller does. Do you want to become a fortune teller?

Do you occasionally make predictions? Does that make you a fortune teller? A prediction is a forecast of what a future observation might be. Scientists make predictions almost all the time. However, scientists are not fortune tellers. See Figure 3.7. A scientific prediction is always based on a scientific theory.

Figure 3.7: Predicting

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1.

Have you ever read a novel and guessed the ending? Do you have any basis when you made the guess? Have you ever watched a movie without trying to figure out what would happen next? If you did, you were making a prediction.

2.

3.

Can you differentiate between predictions made by fortune tellers with the predictions made by scientists? Predicting is what we do most of the time. It is what we think will happen. But it is not just a wild guess, with little or no evidence. A prediction is based on observations and patterns that we have developed from past observations. Our interpretation on what we observed will also play a big role in determining and affecting how good our predictions are. Why must we predict? A prediction is a statement about what will happen in the future. It is a forecast of what a future observation would be. Therefore a good prediction will help us to plan possible actions to take. The prediction of volcanic eruptions will help save many lives by evacuating people living near the volcanic mountain. A very smart prediction of a tsunami had saved almost all the villagers in Simuelue, Aceh in December 26, 2004 (only seven died out of a population of 78,128 people). The prediction of the tsunami in Simuelue was based on the observation of the sea level. Often the first sign of a tsunami is a receding sea level. So careful and comprehensive observation will help in forecasting what will happen. Now let us look at the difference between observations and predictions. Observing and predicting are clearly distinguishable. Observing provides data and we try to understand and make sense of the data. This is what we do when we observe something. We make sense of our surroundings by observing things happen, interpret and try to give explanation. We often detect patterns in what we observe. This helps us to explain why things work the way they do in the future.

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We construct mental models to provide order to things we observe. These mental models help us in predicting occurrences that might happen. So, a prediction is based on observation coupled with previous knowledge or experience. Study the following examples: (a) Zetis cat was named Smart. Smart is really clever. Zeti always took him out for a walk and sometimes she comes back without Smart, but Smart knows how to get home by himself. Yesterday, Smart was kidnapped. Zeti is not worried. She is confident that Smart will try to escape and get back to her. My mothers plant is already blooming. I can see the flowers coming out. I am sure it will produce seeds soon. The two balls with equal mass, and equal speed are involved in a head on elastic collision. Both balls must rebound with the same velocity. Daniel is only five years old. He loves fried rice. He can eat a lot of fried rice for someone his age. In a few years, he will become overweight.

(b)

(c)

(d)

Let us look at example (a). Smart is a very clever cat. He is so used to Zetis housing area. He always managed to find his way back home Observation. Zeti is very sure that Smart will be back Zetis prediction

ACTIVITY 3.5
Can you identify which statements are the observations and which are the predictions for examples (b), (c), and (d)? Compare your answers with your friends.

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ACTIVITY 3.6
Do this activity in pairs. Pick a 400g and a 200g weight from your science room. Discuss with your partner how to make a prediction on which weight will reach the ground first if both weights are dropped from the same height at the same time. Write down your prediction. Ask your partner to stay at one point on the ground away from where you are going to drop the weights to check on your prediction. Drop both weights from the third floor of your school building simultaneously. To ensure the result is reliable, you would need to repeat this activity. Did you make a good prediction? Discuss the results. Can you give an explanation for the results?

x x x x x x x x x

Communication is almost a must for a normal human being every day When we communicate to someone about what we observed, we are actually sharing our observation with the person. Communication is the process of sharing our ideas to create shared understanding or shared meaning. Scientific knowledge is communicated through various ways both verbal and non-verbal. Some tools we can use to share our ideas and observations are data tables, charts, diagrams, maps, symbols, mind maps, concept maps and graphs. An inference is a statement we use to explain what we observe. In other words, inference is based on observation. There will be no inference, if there is no observation. Most of the time, we make inferences without thinking, because we have already recognised the pattern and expect it to reoccur. When we observe something, we will try to understand it using our past experiences.

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To make a good inference we have to make good observations. One of the important aspects in observation is attention. The more attentive we are, the better inference we can make. If we have rich information (ample data and evidence) about the object or event, this will help us to make a better inference. An inference is very crucial in evaluating circumstances and decision making. Scientists use evidences to make inference about something they are studying. A prediction is a statement about what will happen in the future, a forecast of what a future would be. We often detect patterns in what we observe. This helps us to explain why things work the way they do in the future. A prediction is based on observations and patterns that we have developed from past observations. A scientific prediction is always based on a scientific theory. A good prediction will help us to plan possible action to take.

x x x x x x x x

Communication Inference Observation

Predicting Tools of communicating

Ian M. Kinchin (1998). Constructivism in the classroom: Mapping your way through.). Retrieved 18 July, 2012, from www.leeds.ac.uk/educol /documents/000000811.htm Jones, E. & Childers, R (2001). Contemporary college Physics. (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

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McLeod, K.S. (2000). Our sense of os Snow: the myth of John Snow in medical geography. Social Science & Medicine 50 (2000) 923 -935. Ministry of Education Malaysia (2002). Curriculum specification, Science Year 1. Kuala Lumpur: Pusat Perkembangan Kurikulum. Rezba,,R.J.et.al.(1995). Learning and assessing Science Process Skills. (3rd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Teaching

Retrieved 17 July, 2012, from http://www.nsta.org/elementaryschool/connections/200712torreshandoutp arentnstaconn.pdf

Science

Process

Skills.

Teaching About How Scientists Make Inferences. Retrieved 17 July, 2012, from
www.readingrockets.org/pdfs/inference-science-strategy-guide.pdf

Using Graphic Organizers In Literature-Based Science Instruction. Retrieved 17


July, 2012, from www.readingrockets.org/article/42321