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Which of these materials make the light go on? Capability: Critique evidence NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science Contextual strands: Material world Level : 2,3,4

Nature of Science section of Science Online

This resource illustrates how a teaching activity from the Nature of Science section of Science Online 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

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

L1 & 2:

Extend their experiences and personal explanations of the natural world through exploration, play, asking questions, and discussing simple models.

L3 & 4:

Ask questions, find evidence, explore simple models, and carry out appropriate investigations to develop simple explanations.

NZC LINKS: Material World


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Properties and changes of matter

Investigate the properties of materials.

L1 & 2:

Observe, describe, and compare physical and chemical properties of common materials and changes that occur when materials are mixed, heated or cooled.

L3 & 4:

Group materials in different ways, based on the observations and measurements of the characteristic physical and chemical properties of a range of different materials.

Learning focus

Students ask questions to evaluate the trustworthiness of data.

Learning activity

The existing activity requires students to test a variety of different materials to see if they conduct electricity in order to determine which of the materials are metals.

Adapting the resource

After the students have explored the existing activity give them this scenario.

“Johnny set up the experiment and tested some paper clips. The light in the circuit did not go on so Johnny said this experiment proves that a paperclip is not made of metal.”

Ask the students to suggest what else they would want to know before they would trust his claim. For example:

  • How many paper clips did he test?
  • Were the paper clips all the same?
  • Did he repeat the experiment several times?
  • Did anyone else try the same experiment? What were their results?
  • Is Johnny sure the bulb was working and the circuit was set up correctly? (Did the light work when other materials were tested?)
  • Was Johnny impartial? (Was he being open-minded about his results or did he want a particular outcome?)

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.

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 the New Zealand Curriculum ).

What are we looking for?

Do students understand that how the data are gathered affects the trustworthiness of the data?

Do they know what questions to ask?

Are they developing a “sceptical disposition” towards evidence? (Do they question knowledge claims rather than simply accepting them as true?)

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 presenting results from investigations – regardless of the context. Science Fairs would provide a rich context.

Other resources for this capability

Key Words

Science Online, metals