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TopicX Integrated

ScienceProcess SkillsII

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Identify all variables in an experiment; Explain the concept of a fair test; Formulate a testable hypothesis for an experiment; Explain the skills of experimenting; and Describe the steps of experimenting

X INTRODUCTION
A group of pupils are given a problem to solve. They are investigating the effect of friction on the movement of a toy car. How should they begin? They should use their observations and past experiences to examine and study the problem. They should consider all factors or variables involved in the experiment and try to relate how these factors affect the outcome of the experiment. Then they should make predictions and finally design an experiment to solve the problem. In this topic, we will be discussing the skills needed to design and carry out such experiments and they are: (a) (b) (c) Identifying and controlling variables; Formulating a hypothesis; and Experimenting.

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SELF-CHECK 5.1
Does conducting an experiment and experimenting mean the same thing? Give your reason.

5.1

IDENTIFYING AND CONTROLLING VARIABLES

In a science experiment, we investigate to find the effect of one variable upon another variable. We want to find out how a certain variable responds when we change a particular variable. Usually we change one variable systematically and then observe and measure the corresponding changes in another variable. All other variables are held constant. Let us go back to the pupils and the toy car experiment discussed above. What variable will you change if you want to examine the effect of friction on the movement of the toy car? What is the variable that will change and which variables must be kept constant? Try to recall what you learnt about experiments in HBSC 1203.

5.1.1

What are Variables?

A variable is something that can change or vary. Variables are the components of an experiment that change or could be changed.

In science, variables refer to factors or conditions that can change or vary during the course of an experiment. For example, if you want to carry out an experiment to see the different conditions that affect the temperature at which water boils, what do you think the variables are? Yes, the variables involved are the size of the burner and container used, amount of water, temperature at which the water is heated and any substances that are added to the water. Scientists attempt to change only one of these variables at a time so that there is no confusion about what caused the change.

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5.1.2 Types of Variables in an Experiment

There are three types of variables in an experiment as shown in Figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1: Types of variables

The manipulated variable is sometimes referred to as an independent variable and the responding variable as the dependent variable. Let us use the following experiment to explain the three types of variables.

You are trying to find out whether the surface area of a parachute will effect the time it takes to reach the ground.

What are the variables involved in this experiment? Surface area of the parachute, time for the parachute to reach the ground, mass of the person, material of the parachute and height at which the parachutes will be dropped are some of the variables involved in this experiment. In the above example, you would be trying out parachutes with different surface areas and finding out of the time it takes for the different parachutes to reach the ground. So the variable that you should change or vary is the surface area of the parachute and the variable that you would observe or measure is the time for the different parachutes to reach the ground. Thus, the manipulated variable is the surface area of the parachute, while the time taken for the parachute to reach the ground is the responding variable. Yes, the manipulated variable is the variable that you are testing or manipulating while the responding variable is the variable you are measuring. In this experiment, you have to keep certain variables constant all the time. The height

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that you dropped the parachutes, the type of material that you use in making the parachute, the length of the parachutes are the variables that you have to keep the same while trying out the different sizes of the parachutes. These variables are called controlled variables. You will control these variables, by making them the same for every test, so you know they are not affecting the results. Other examples of variables are shown in Table 5.1.
Table 5.1: Other Examples of Variables Question Manipulated Variable (What I change) Responding Variables (What I observe) Controlled Variables (What I keep the same) x The faucet x Water pressure, or how much the water is pushing x Stirring x Type of sugar

Temperature of the water measured in degrees Celsius

Amount of sugar that dissolves completely measured in grams Growth of the plant

Amount of fertiliser measured in grams

x Same type of fertiliser x Same size pot for each plant x Same type of plant in each pot x Same type and amount of soil in each pot x Same amount of water and light x Make measurements of growth for each plant at the same time

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Speed of rotation measured in revolutions per minute (RPMs)

x Same motor for every test x The motor should be doing the same work for each test

SELF-CHECK 5.2
Define with examples a manipulated and responding variable in an experiment.

ACTIVITY 5.1
What are the manipulating, responding and controlled variables in the following activities?
Activities Heating water in a beaker with a Bunsen burner Rolling a ball down a slope How many dirty dishes can be cleaned by a washing up liquid? Variables

5.1.3

What is a Fair Test?

It is important for an experiment to be a fair test. You conduct a fair test by making sure that you change one factor at a time while keeping all other conditions the same. Let us look at the parachute experiment again. If you dropped the parachute at different heights and then measure the time taken for them to reach the ground, is that a fair test? No! Of course the parachute that you dropped at a lower height

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will take less time to reach the ground compared to the parachute that you dropped from a higher height. To do a fair test, you should drop the parachutes of different surface areas from the same height, so when they take different times to reach the ground, it is due to their different surface areas. Let us look at another example (see Figure 5.2). You are doing an experiment to see if fertiliser makes a plant grow bigger than a plant that does not receive fertiliser.

Figure 5.2: Six pots with difference soil

We placed the same type of seed in all the six flower pots. Then, all six pots are placed in the same location and water each one with the same amount of water every other day. The plants with loam soil and fertiliser grow to be much bigger than the ones grown in sand without fertiliser. Is this a fair test of whether fertiliser makes a plant grow bigger? No! We changed two factors (type of soil and fertiliser), so we have no idea whether the plants with fertiliser grew bigger because of the fertiliser or if the other plants were stunted by being grown in sand. It was not a fair test! All of the plants should have been in the same kind of soil and the soil should have been kept constant. Conducting a fair test is one of the most important ingredients of doing good, scientifically valuable experiments. To ensure that your experiment is a fair test, you must change only one factor at a time while keeping all other conditions the same.

SELF-CHECK 5.3
There are three cups of tea. You want to find out which cup of tea is the sweetest. What do you need to keep the same before deciding which cup is the sweetest?

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Hands-on activity Swinging Pendulum What you need: x x x 5 different masses of the pendulum 20cm string Stopwatch

Figure 5.3: Pendulum

Procedure 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Fix a 20cm string onto a retort stand (Figure 5.3). Tie the lightest mass to the other end of the string. Hold the pendulum and release it. Count the number of times the pendulum swings to and fro in 15 seconds. Repeat this method using each of the other masses of the pendulum. Record your observation in a table. What are the manipulated, responding and controlled variables? Is this a fair test? What other factors can be the manipulated variables in this experiment?

5.2

FORMULATING HYPOTHESES

An experiment usually begins with a problem that needs solving, a question that needs answering or a decision that needs to be made. We do experiments to determine if cause-and-effect relationships exist between variables. If we deliberately change one variable in an experiment, another may change as a result. Before conducting an experiment, you need to formulate a hypothesis first. Formulating a hypothesis involves asking a question about the observation.

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5.2.1

What is a Hypothesis?

A hypothesis is a tentative statement that proposes a possible explanation to some phenomenon or event which then can be proved by doing an investigation. Hypotheses are predictions about the relationships between variables. So if you start the experiment with the hypothesis, it will guide you about what data to collect. Why do you have to know how to hypothesise? It is simply because the hypothesis is the core of experimentation which in turn provides you with the ultimate opportunity to utilise critical thinking as a scientist. Being able to hypothesise allows you to focus on the specifics of a relationship. It limits the focus to just two things at a time, the manipulative and the responding variables. Furthermore, you can make logical conclusions if you looked at the hypothesis again. How do you form a hypothesis? A hypothesis is often based on past experience, information gained from the existing body of knowledge, and a best guess. For example, suppose your flashlight stops working during a camping trip. That is an observation. A reasonable hypothesis based on past experience is that the batteries in the flashlight are dead. A hypothesis allows you to make certain predictions. It is these predictions that scientists then test. Consider the case of the failed flashlight in the following Figure 5.4.

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5.2.2

What is a Testable Hypothesis?

When you do an experiment you want to test an idea or prove something. A hypothesis is a statement that you formulate before you start to investigate as it helps you to plan how to carry out the investigation. In order to obtain data the hypothesis must be testable. In other words, you would be able to prove whether the hypothesis that you have formulated can be accepted by carrying out tests or experiments. A testable hypothesis predicts a relationship between a manipulated variable and a responding variable. A physics experiment could test the speed at which a ball

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rolls down several slopes with the angle of the slope being the manipulated variable and the speed at which the ball rolls as the responding variable. A chemistry experiment could measure the amount of baking soda needed to create a reaction with vinegar with the amount of baking soda being the manipulated variable and time of eruption the responding variable.

SELF-CHECK 5.4
Which of these are testable hypothesis? (a) (b) (c) (d) Ice cream is delicious. Humans will someday land on Mars. A plant needs at least five hours of sunlight per day to grow. Roses are more beautiful than violets.

5.2.3

How are Hypotheses Written?

Study the statements below: Chocolate may cause pimples. Salt in soil may affect plant growth. Plant growth may be affected by the colour of the light. Bacterial growth may be affected by temperature. Ultraviolet light may cause skin cancer. Temperature may cause leaves to change colour. Are all the statements above hypothesis statements? They could be, but are they any good for you to use as a guide to design an experiment? They need to be refined to turn them into testable hypotheses.

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Let us look at the following example. A worker on a fish farm notices that his trout seem to have more fish lice in the summer, when the water levels are low, and he wants to find out why. His research leads him to believe that the amount of oxygen is the reason. Fish that are oxygen stressed tend to be more susceptible to disease and parasites. He proposes a general hypothesis. Water levels affect the amount of lice suffered by rainbow trout. This is a good general hypothesis, but it gives no guide on how to design the experiment. The hypothesis must be refined to give a little direction. Rainbow trout suffer more lice when water levels are low. Now there is some direction, but the hypothesis is not really testable. Look at the next hypothesis that the worker makes. Rainbow trout suffer more lice in low water conditions because there is less oxygen in the water. This is a testable hypothesis. The worker has established variables, and by measuring the amount of oxygen in the water, he can see if there is a relationship withthe number of lice on the fish. He also has to control other variables such as temperature.
Source: http://www.experiment-resources.com/

The example above illustrates the reasoning that should be followed when you want to write a testable hypothesis. You start with an observation and then you make inferences. Come up with a hypothesis and later refine it to a testable hypothesis.

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ACTIVITY 5.2
Do the following exercise to test your understanding 1. Benjamin is studying the effect of a magnet on various objects. (a) (b) Match the step (column A) with his corresponding action (column B). Arrange the steps of constructing a hypothesis in the correct order.
A 1. He is interpreting the data. Material Tested B Magnetic ( / ) Non-magnetic ( x ) Nail Piece of glass Wooden pencil Knife Paperclip 2. He then recorded his observation. / x x / /

The nail, the knife and the paperclip are attracted to the magnet they are all made of metal. Well, only the pin is attracted. It looks like Ill have to change my hypothesis. Things made of iron or steel are magnetic.

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4.

He experimented further, because his prediction turned out to be wrong. He had to modify (change) his hypothesis.

I havent tested everything made of metal, but if my hypothesis is correct, I predict that a pin, a copper coin and a piece of aluminium foil will all be attracted to a magnet. I can generalise that things made of metal are magnetic. Thats my hypothesis.

5.

From this generalisation he was able to make a prediction which could be tested.

SELF-CHECK 5.5
Which of the following are inferences and which are hypotheses? (a) This piece of iron must be a magnet. (b) All things fall towards the Earth because of gravity. (c) Plants grow more in summer than in winter. (d) I think the wet road caused this accident. Hands-on Activity STRAW OH STRAW! 1. Get six straws. Cut one end of the straws to get a point and blow into this end of the straw to produce a sound. Observe the pitch of the sound produced (high or low).

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2.

Question: How does the length of the straw affect the pitch of the sound produced? Your hypothesis: Trim the five remaining straws to different lengths. Then, cut one end of each straw, blow into this end and observe the pitch of the sound produced. Arrange your six straws in order from the highest to the lowest pitch and tape the straws in the box below.

3. 4.

5.3

EXPERIMENTING

In this section, we will learn about experimenting. What are the skills that you need if you want to design an experiment?

5.3.1

What is Experimenting?

Experimenting is the activity that puts together all of the other science process skills that we have discussed earlier. An experiment may begin as a question. Then, the steps in answering the question may include stating a hypothesis, identifying and controlling variables, operationally defining those variables, designing a fair experiment, conducting the experiment, and interpreting the results of the experiment. Most of the science process skills are involved whether before, during or after experimenting. When you are confronted with a problem to solve, you identify all variables, formulate a hypothesis and make an operational definition. During the experiment, you observe, classify, make inferences, predict, measure and use

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numbers and communicate. After completing the experiment, you interpret data and communicate your results to others. In conclusion, experimenting means knowing what problem to solve, how to solve it (designing the experiment), conducting the experiment, analysing the data collected and coming to a conclusion or getting the answer to the problem. Figure 5.5 shows a simple experiment which studies how high different types of balls bounce. Figure 5.6 is not an experiment. Study the two examples. Can you notice the differences between the two science activities?
Ball Bounce 1. 2. Your task is to find a way to compare how bouncy the different balls are. Think about how you will do the experiment: x x x 3. 4. What will you keep the same? What will you measure? How will you use numbers to say how bouncy the balls are?

You are to work as a team, and try to make sure that everyone helps Record your measurements in the table below. Type of Ball Height It Bounces

Figure 5.5: Ball Bounce Experiment

ACTIVITY 5.3
Study the experiment in Figure 5.5 and answer the following questions. (a) (b) How do you make sure this is a fair test? What is the hypothesis?

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Bubbling Explosion What you need: x x x x x x Clip lock bag Teaspoon Tartaric acid Baking soda Film canister Water

What do you do? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Carefully place a teaspoon of baking soda in a plastic bag. Add a teaspoon of tartaric acid to the bag. Fill a film canister with water and carefully sit it on the bottom of the inside of the plastic bag (Dont tip the water out). Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can. Zip lock the bag closed. Predict what you think will happen when you carefully shake the bag, so that the water, tartaric acid and baking soda are all thoroughly mixed together. Observe the contents closely while holding the bag by the base. What do you notice? Explain what you think is happening.
Figure 5.6: Bubbling Explosion Activity

7. 8. 9.

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ACTIVITY 5.4
Study Figure 5.6. This is not an example of an experiment. How can you turn this activity into an experiment? Hint: What variable can you manipulate?

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Do background research

Construct a hypothesis

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x x x

Finally, you want to share your findings with your friends. You should write your report to include all the various elements in your experiment. You should use various tools display your data such as data table, graphs and diagram, so that the findings are clearly communicated to the others.

Source: Module HBSC1103 Teaching and learning of Science

Hands-on Activity Scenario of the Problem You like your coffee very sweet. After adding two sugar cubes, it does not dissolve any more. What can you do so that you can add more sugar cubes into your coffee?

Design an experiment to solve the above problem using the steps discussed in Table 5.2. Writeareport.Identifyallthescienceprocessskillsaswellasthemanipulative skillsthatareinvolvedduringplanning,carryingout,analysingandwritingup thereport. 1. Identifying the problem What is the problem that you are going to investigate? 2. Form a hypothesis A hypothesis is based on observations that you have made. A hypothesis is a possible explanation based on previous knowledge and observations. It is a prediction that can be tested.

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3.

Test your hypothesis To test a hypothesis you need a procedure. A procedure is the plan you follow in your experiment. A procedure tells you what materials to use, as well as how and in what order to use them. Record and analyse your data The data you collected must be recorded carefully. Accuracy is the key. A well thought out experiment includes a way to record procedures. Data tables are one way to organise and record results. Conclusions After analysing the data collected, recheck for accuracy. You are now ready to draw conclusions about what the data means. These conclusions are usually stated using words similar to those in the hypothesis formed earlier.

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5.

x x x x x x

In science, variables refer to factors or conditions that can change or vary during the course of an experiment. There are three types of variables in an experiment manipulated, responding and controlled variables. The manipulated variable is the variable that you change or vary. The responding variable is the variable that you observe or measure. Controlled variables are the variables that you keep the same throughout the experiment. A hypothesis is a tentative statement that proposes a possible explanation to some phenomenon or event which then can be proved by doing an investigation. Hypotheses are predictions about the relationships between variables. A testable hypothesis predicts a relationship between a manipulated variable and a responding variable. The skill experimenting involves knowing what problem to solve, how to solve it (designing the experiment), conducting the experiment, analysing the data collected and coming to a conclusion or getting the answer to the problem.

x x x

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The scientific method is made up of a series of steps, namely:       Ask a question, Do background research, Construct a hypothesis, Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment, Analyse your data and draw a conclusion and Communicate your results.

Manipulated variable Responding variable Testable hypothesis Variable

Bailer, J., Ramig, Ramsey, J.E, & J. M. (1995). Teaching process skills. USA: Good Apple. Fiel, R.L, Funk, H.J, Rezba & R.L, Sparague, C. (1995). Learning and assessing science process skills. Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. Stannard, P., & Williamson, K. (2001). Science world 7. South Yara, Australia: Macmillan Ed. Australia Pty Ltd. Skamp, K. (2004). Teaching primary science constructively. Melbourne:Thomson Learning. Spurr, B., & Loveless, M. (2007). Improving learning in a Science classroom. Workshop materials.

Writing hypothesis for your Science project. Retrieved June 7, 2012, from
www.sciencebuddies.org/Project Guide

Curriculum . Retrieved June 7, 2012, from http://seasproject.disl.org/curriculum.htm Steps of the scientific method. Retrieved June 7, 2012, from http://www.
experiment-resources.com/