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Where will the wood float? Capability: Critique evidence NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science Contextual strands: Material world Contextual strands: Physical world Level : 4

Where will the wood float?

This resource illustrates how an Assessment Resource Bank (ARBs) item could be refocused to provide an opportunity 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.

L3 & 4:

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

Physical World and Material World


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Physical inquiry and physics concepts

Explore and investigate physical phenomena in everyday situations.

Properties and changes of matter

Investigate the properties of materials.

L3 & 4:

Explore, describe, and represent patterns and trends for everyday examples of physical phenomena....

L3 & 4:

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

Learning focus

Students explore the importance of having enough data to draw conclusions.

Learning activity

The original Assessment Resource Banks (ARBs) activity involves the students predicting, observing and explaining where a piece of wood floats in a container of water and oil.

Adapting the resource

    1. After the students have carried out the existing activity ask:
      • Do you think you would get the same result if you repeated the activity with the same piece of wood? How sure are you? What could you do to be more certain of your answer?
      • Would you get the same result if you repeated the activity with a different piece of wood? How sure are you? What could you do to be more certain of your answer?
      • Brainstorm as many things as you can that might affect the results. [For example: size of the wood, type of wood, shape, the way it was placed in the container, how dry/ waterlogged it is, etc.]

Where will the wood float?

    • Wood always floats on water and oil.
    • Some wood floats on water and oil. [This is the only statement supported by the data.]
    • Only small pieces of wood float.
    • All wood eventually sinks.

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. Scientists are cautious in the claims they make as it takes only one piece of disconfirming evidence to disprove a theory.

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?

Do students realise one trial provides insufficient evidence to make a claim?

Do students realise the importance of evidence that disconfirms a statement?

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 carrying out investigations – regardless of the context. Science Fairs would provide a rich context.

Other resources for this capability

Key Words

Assessment Resource Banks, floating and sinking