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Hypothesis Formulation & Testing

This material was originally created for On the Cutting Edge: Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
Kaatje Kraft, Mesa Community College
Course: Introduction to Physical Geology
~50 students
Students remember what they have seen and done much better than they remember what you have told them.

The Activity

In order for students to understand the basics of the scientific method, I go through an in-class exercise that requires a student to "read my mind." One student voluteer heads outside and I briefly tell them [the volunteer] that they will "read my mind" by correctly identifying an item selected by the class. I will list several items, but the correct item will FOLLOW an item that is round in shape.

I then go back into the class and have them select an object. After the volunteer accurately "reads my mind," the students in the class hypothesize how he or she is doing it. We then test each individual hypothesis (and also add to them) until the students develop a working theory. From there I go into a description of hypothesis vs. theory in science and how this is different from the common use of the word theory.

Additional Information

Bob Thompson at Glendale Community College was the first one to introduce this idea to me.