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NCEA Level 1 Investigations Capability: Critique evidence NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science Contextual strands: Material world Level : 5

NCEA Chemistry on TKI

This resource illustrates how suggested tasks for the aligned NCEA 1.1 Chemistry standard can be adapted to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to critique evidence in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Investigating in science

Students will carry out science investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things, or developing systems.


Begin to evaluate the suitability of investigative methods chosen.

Material World


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Properties and changes of matter

Investigate the properties of materials.


Investigate the chemical and physical properties of different groups of substances, for example, acids and bases, fuels and metals.

Learning focus

Students critique each others’ experimental designs.

Learning activity

Either of the suggested tasks for the aligned NCEA standard 1.1 could be used for this activity. The standard assesses students’ ability to design, carry out, and report on a reasonably straightforward laboratory investigation. This standard is sometimes completed in year 10 and, provided students have the necessary conceptual knowledge, provides a good opportunity for them to strengthen their skills in critiquing their own investigation design and procedures.    

Adapting the resource:

Get the students to work in groups to design their investigations. Once they have designed their investigations each group presents their design to another group (or to the class). The students have to justify their design. Encourage the other students to question the presenters, e.g.:

  • How many concentrations (or other variable name as relevant) will you test?
  • How will you measure your observations?
  • How will you make sure your investigation is a fair test overall?
  • How many times will you repeat each individual investigation?

Students then have time to modify their designs before carrying out their investigations and preparing a presentation of their findings. [Sample task B1.1v2 already suggests Power Point or posters as reporting options.]  

Students could present their findings to another small group (as at the design stage) or to the whole class. Challenge the students who are listening to each group’s presentation to imagine that they are scientists at a conference. Their role is to listen carefully and think about whether any details should be questioned. This should be done as professionally as possible (it is not about personal style). Possible questions could begin:

What did you do to manage....?

Did you take.....into account?

Why did you decide to....?

How confident are you that....?

When all the groups have presented lead a class discussion about which results they think they can trust the most. What are their reasons for trusting these results? What aspects of the investigation made the data seem more trustworthy? What other questions have they got now?

What’s important here?

In order to evaluate the trustworthiness of data students need to know quite a lot about the qualities of scientific tests so they know what questions to ask. It is not enough just to know how to do a “fair test” – students need to know why protocols, such as repeated trials, controlling variables, accurate measurements etc., are important.

The critiquing of both design and reporting stages simulates an important role in scientists’ work. As well as conducting their own investigations they act as peer reviewers for their colleagues (by discussing critical design features, data protocols, the meaning of results, etc.), and for others who work in similar fields (e.g., by reviewing journal articles and asking critical questions at conferences).

Developing an appreciation of how evidence in science is generated supports students to become scientifically literate, i.e., to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role. (This is the purpose of science in NZC.)

What are we looking for?

Can students justify the designs of their investigations?

Do they know what questions to ask when critiquing others’ designs?

Do they understand that how the data is gathered affects the trustworthiness of the data?

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in critiquing evidence see Progressions .

Exploring further

This adaptation could be used whenever students are designing investigations – regardless of the context. Science Fairs would also provide a rich context for this sort of collaborative critique.

Other resources for this capability

Key words

NCEA, investigation