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Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Planning and carrying out investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models. 


K-2 3-5 6-8 9-12
Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in K–2 builds on prior experiences and progresses to simple investigations, based on fair tests, which provide data to support explanations or design solutions.

• With guidance, plan and conduct an investigation in collaboration with peers (for K).

• Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer a question.

• Evaluate different ways of observing and/or measuring a phenomenon to determine which way can answer a question.

• Make observations (firsthand or from media) and/or measurements to collect data that can be used to make comparisons.

• Make observations (firsthand or from media) and/or measurements of a proposed object or tool or solution to determine if it solves a problem or meets a goal.

• Make predictions based on prior experiences.
Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 3–5 builds on K– 2 experiences and progresses to include investigations that control variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions.

• Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered.

• Evaluate appropriate methods and/or tools for collecting data.

• Make observations and/or measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.

• Make predictions about what would happen if a variable changes.

• Test two different models of the same proposed object, tool, or process to determine which better meets criteria for success.
Planning and carrying out investigations in 6-8 builds on K-5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or solutions.

• Plan an investigation individually and collaboratively, and in the design: identify independent and dependent variables and controls, what tools are needed to do the gathering, how measurements will be recorded, and how many data are needed to support a claim.

• Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation.

• Evaluate the accuracy of various methods for collecting data.

• Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions.

• Collect data about the performance of a proposed object, tool, process or system under a range of conditions.
Planning and carrying out investigations in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to include investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models.

• Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible confounding variables or effects and evaluate the investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled.

• Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.

• Plan and conduct an investigation or test a design solution in a safe and ethical manner including considerations of environmental, social, and personal impacts.

• Select appropriate tools to collect, record, analyze, and evaluate data.  Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.

• Manipulate variables and collect data about a complex model of a proposed process or system to identify failure points or improve performance relative to criteria for success or other variables

Introduction to SEP3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

from NGSS Appendix F: Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS

Students should have opportunities to plan and carry out several different kinds of investigations during their K-12 years. At all levels, they should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher—in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own (e.g., measuring specific properties of materials)—to those that emerge from students’ own questions. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61)  

Scientific investigations may be undertaken to describe a phenomenon, or to test a theory or model for how the world works. The purpose of engineering investigations might be to find out how to fix or improve the functioning of a technological system or to compare different solutions to see which best solves a problem. Whether students are doing science or engineering, it is always important for them to state the goal of an investigation, predict outcomes, and plan a course of action that will provide the best evidence to support their conclusions. Students should design investigations that generate data to provide evidence to support claims they make about phenomena. Data aren’t evidence until used in the process of supporting a claim. Students should use reasoning and scientific ideas, principles, and theories to show why data can be considered evidence.  

Over time, students are expected to become more systematic and careful in their methods. In laboratory experiments, students are expected to decide which variables should be treated as results or outputs, which should be treated as inputs and intentionally varied from trial to trial, and which should be controlled, or kept the same across trials. In the case of field observations, planning involves deciding how to collect different samples of data under different conditions, even though not all conditions are under the direct control of the investigator. Planning and carrying out investigations may include elements of all of the other practices. 


Performance Expectations Associated with SEP3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations


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