Science is nothing without scientific method, and scientific method is all about the experiment. Preliminary research is the foundation of a good experiment. A good experiment begins with scientific method and while this may all seem very scientific, learning to use scientific method means learning to solve problems. Our society as a whole lacks good problem solving skills.
Scientific method starts with a problem, a question. Why is candy sweet? We scientist then put the question into a statement that we call a hypothesis; the candy is sweet because it contains sugar. Then we use various types of experimental studies to test the hypothesis and see if it is correct.
Perhaps where some of the confusion comes in is that one can never completely prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a hypothesis is true or false. Thus we scientists usually form another hypothesis. This is fun for us. We scientists live and breathe to test a hypothesis; in fact our brains are constantly flowing in hypothetical form. We often drive those around us crazy.
We wonder why the laundry soap smells like roses when it is called Fresh Rain? Why was the dog barking last night at 8:05? Why is the woman next door digging through her garbage? What method of preparation will yield the tenderest chicken? Do extroverted personalities choose Peanut M & M Candy more often than introverts? I could do this for hours, so as not to further digress, the following is a mock experiment designed to further exemplify how scientific method plays out.
An Experiment in Action
In the following mock experiment, the study will determine if a new curriculum called E-Z Read is superior to the reading curriculum already in use at Desert Mountain Elementary School. To answer this question, one must first gather information from the publishers and teachers about the reading programs currently being used. It is necessary to ask the teachers to turn in written feed back as to their observations of the current reading curriculum. Based on that information, a formal and scientific hypothesis can be formed.
Once the formal hypothesis is formed it will be necessary to perform this experiment from a Longitudinal Approach with a control group. A case study would not work for this situation because, although it would provide the length of time needed to assess the curriculum it would not provide the width with which to measure its overall success. A correlational study would be wonderful in theory, however it would not be practical to carry out. A correlational study would be to complicated with this group of elementary students.
Hypothesis: Students who learn to read using the new E-Z Read reading curriculum will learn to read better and faster than those students who learn to read using the current reading curriculum being supplied to Desert Mountain Elementary School.
The experiment will be conducted from a Longitudinal Approach by performing the study over the period of one full school year at Desert Mountain Elementary School. The study will be conducted in both Miss Jones’ and Mrs. Brown’s second grade classrooms. Students will be randomly assigned into the two classrooms at the beginning of the school year with both classrooms being equally numbered with both boys and girls. The teachers will be instructed to arrange and decorate their rooms in a similar fashion as not to alter the results of the study in any way. The classrooms will also be placed on the same lunch and recess schedule.
The first group, Miss Jones’ classroom, will be the control group. This group will simply remain unchanged. This group will continue to study using the current reading program and simply have their progress charted by the teachers in charge.
The second group will be the experimental group. The experimental group will study using the new E-Z Read reading program; which will be the independent variable of the study. During the course of the study the teachers will chart the progress of the students on a daily basis. This will be the dependant variable of the study. The students’ grades as well as their overall success and ease in learning to read will be considered valuable data to be collected and analyzed.
At the end of the school year the data provided will be carefully analyzed and compared. After carefully analyzing the data provided by the experiment a conclusion will be determined as to whether or not the hypothesis was indeed correct.
Santrock, John W. (2008). Lifespan development. MaGraw Hill: New York.