Generating and testing hypotheses is a strategy that is used beyond the science classroom. We frequently observe phenomena and form explanations (really predictions) about why we think this is occurring. In science the natural next step is to test these predictions. This process is consistent with constructionism, “a theory of learning that states people learn best when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011) because we end with a conclusion about our findings we can easily share. We are striving for equilibration by creating balance between our current understanding and external reality. We are altering our understanding based on what we experience while testing predictions.
I explored a website called Astro-Venture that allowed students to create and build their own planet. In order to accomplish this they had to learn about concepts and apply them to the situation. In the end they have a final product, and they are engaged in the process along the way. This and other project-based, problem-based, and inquiry-based learning activities allow you to make predictions and test them while creating the final product. Activities can be designed to guide students toward the desired result or we as teachers can facilitate this process. For example, in the Astro-Venture activity, students may predict that a larger star will produce more energy for their planet. They will then discover that a red giant star is near the end of its life cycle and therefore may not be the best choice for their planet. In this way, students are able to test their ideas and still reach the desired outcome.
By having students create or build something, there is a specific goal. Students become so focused on the goal that the learning required happens almost by accident. Suddenly the content becomes less daunting and students are more engaged. The final product serves as evidence that students have achieved not only the project goal but also the learning goals along the way.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program seven: Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1