Writing Investigations

Throughout the school year, I have been modifying old “labs” and making them “investigations”, or developing some new ones from scratch. The process I use is this (which is not solely my own, but a modification of the process from the Argument Driven Inquiry books):

1. Develop a catchy title, if possible. I’m trying to make the investigations more relatable to the students.

2. Develop a guiding question.

3. Provide a list of materials and equipment available for student use.

4. The students develop their own investigation, which has to be teacher approved before they put their hands on any materials.

5. Students have a set amount of time to investigate.

6. The goal is for the students to gather sufficient and relevant data to answer the guiding question and write a claim, evidence, and reasoning.

7. I collect their CER on paper or via a Google Form.

Here is an example:

10 thoughts on “Writing Investigations

  1. Pingback: Writing Investigations for NGSS Implementation | Battaglia's Babble

  2. nice idea! I have been watching some webinars on ADI and it seems like a great place to start. I like the way you came up with not just a catchy title but also a driving question the students can start on right away. Its really a struggle for my students to get going on a lab with no guidance and I think the way you have it structured really helps assist the students to create a plan of action for their lab. I like the integration of the video/tech into the lab. What do most of your students use to make their videos? Also when you have the students submit their CER through a Google Form do you just use a blank paragraph question type or do you have a more specific form?


  3. Almost all of my students have a phone (mostly iPhones) or tablet to use to produce a video. I have just started putting that on there as an option, but my students have not been very interested in it. I just told them to take a video during the investigation and then use parts of it to discuss their claim, evidence, and reasoning in a separate video. I need to have a lesson on how to do the video clipping, I think. I also think some of them thought that was too much work. As for the Google Form, here is what it looks like:

    Link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/10AkUZDZ4KWC1bbZryUQr4OcBBYc4tWLVSRlIvLn4A3g/viewform

    I use the Google form the first half of the year, and then I had them write out CER more formally after that.


  4. Thanks for sharing! I like the structure you provided to give students enough freedom to design their own experiment yet also keep them focused on the key learning. Just wondering – about how much time do you give for this process? Are you also providing specific mini-lessons in accomplishing these tasks? Thanks!


    • For this particular task, we spent 3-4 periods working on it. I usually give one day for planning, and anywhere from 1-3 days to perform their task and collect data. We then spend a day to discuss, and write up CER. Before handing them a task like this, I typically have students do what I call a “training lab” (or 2) where they learn to use specific equipment and procedures. Previous to this one, they had done one where they tested the differences in electrolytes vs. nonelectrolytes and how they affect the freezing point of water. We had also discussed models and a video of how electrolytes/nonelectrolytes dissolve in water, and used that in addition to the training lab to construct an explanation for the guiding question in that lab. Hope this helps!


  5. Thanks for sharing this layout. We are doing something similar in our Chemistry class. We have the students make this layout in their science notebooks and bring it to the teachers for approval. I really like the incorporation of CER and making that connection obvious and upfront for the students. I love that you can tie this to experiemental design and the thinking is so similar. Thank you for sharing this I can see how it will be useful in my class.


  6. Wanda,

    This is absolutely awesome! I just love your lens on re-purposing with purpose. Everything you shared can so easily be applied right after reading, very distilled!

    Thank you for sharing!


  7. I love the idea of having the students take the responsibility for their own learning and having them developing their own lab experiments, but how are you able to cover all the curriculum content if you are spending 3-4 days on a lab exercise that traditionally would have taken 1-2 days of time? Have you flipped your classroom?


    • I have not flipped it, but plan on doing that next year. I have done 1-2 of these types of investigations per unit, and it has taken some additional time, but I feel that the students learn more from these experiences than trying to memorize a bunch of content. I do weave any content I can into the situations/scenarios. It doesn’t follow the traditional order of “topics” but I think that it has been more meaningful for my students.


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