Johns Hopkins University Secondary Support Initiative (JHUSSI)  

Methods in Science



Curiosity is a fundamental human trait. Science instruction can guide children to become critical thinkers by allowing them to follow their natural curiosities and develop scientific inquiries. While the focus of science instruction differs based on grade level, generally students will be exposed to the following topics:

  • Earth and space sciences, the branch of science that deals with the physical earth and its atmosphere, such as geology, oceanography, meteorology, or astronomy.
  • Biology, the study of the structure, function, growth, evolution, and distribution of living and non-living organisms (Biology Online, 2012).
  • Chemistry, the science of how materials form, their composition and attributes, how they transform, and the energy they consume or release through these transformations (Chemistry 2011, 2014).
  • Physics, the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy including mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms.
  • Psychology, the study of the behavior of humans and animals (American Psychological Association, 2014).

‚ÄčWhen developing a science curriculum or learning goal, students should be expected to practice and gain knowledge in the Four Strands of Scientific Proficiency (National Research Council, 2007): 

  • Strand 1: Know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world. This strand includes students’ ability to acquire facts about the scientific world and to use those facts to develop their arguments and explanations (NCR, 2007).
  • Strand 2: Generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations. This strand encompasses the skills needed to use the data generated by empirical investigations to refine and defend scientific arguments (NCR, 2007).
  • Strand 3: Understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge. This strand focuses on students’ abilities to understand the process for developing scientific knowledge. Students must understand that they gain knowledge by developing a hypothesis, testing their hypothesis, making adjustments, and developing scientific arguments based on their data (NCR, 2007).
  • Strand 4: Participate productively in scientific practices and discourse. This strand includes students’ attitude towards science. A student who does not place value in the steps of scientific discovery will unlikely be able to participate as a productive member of scientific endeavors (NCR, 2007).

Students can build their skills with the Four Strands of Scientific Proficiency, as well as explore their natural curiosities through scientific inquiries. Scientific inquiry is the process of developing a question and conducting an investigation to gain information. Through scientific inquiries, students think deeply about a subject matter and experiment with ideas to reach a conclusion. Students should take ownership of their own inquiries. The role of the teacher is to guide children by providing suggestions and asking open-ended questions. Reaching an absolute conclusion is not necessarily an important part of scientific inquiry. Rather the process of investigating an idea and developing a tactical plan is the primary goal. Forming and testing hypotheses enable children to practice valuable critical thinking and problem solving skills (Dyasi, 2000).


The Steps of Scientific Inquiry



The following lessons highlight the use of multiple representations, mnemonic devices, and graphic organizers to enhance science instruction in biology. Through the lessons, students are guided to activate prior knowledge, engage in hands-on experimentation, and generate and discuss their arguments based on their research.