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Main | Activity 3-1 | Activity 3-2

Activity 3-2: Test your Investigation Question

This activity provides a test run of your investigation question. Early trials are low cost (not much design/development time and resources invested) and high gain (an amazingly large amount of rich information). Pose your investigation question to a sample selected from your targeted learner population. Then record and analyze their discussion and answers. You’re collecting data to support understanding learners’:

  • Naive conceptions/misconceptions: What immediate answers do learners have to the question? Do their answers indicate naive or undeveloped mental models of the targeted domain? Do their comments and conversation reveal misconceptions?

  • Activation of prior knowledge: Can learners immediately relate to your investigation context? Do they spontaneously generate ideas of how to solve the question? Does learner conversation indicate that learners are familiar with the terminology in the investigation question? Note: It is not required that learners know the answer to the questions. They only need to have ideas about how to approach the problem.

  • Motivation: Are learners obviously excited by the investigation question?

Investigation Question Pilot Testing
Have learners answer the question without any other materials and rate their level of interest in the question. On a full sheet of paper, provide the investigation question at the top of the sheet, space for learners to write their answer, and a Likert-type scale for the learners to rate their interest in the question at the bottom. You can use this
Pilot Testing template similar to the example below (the question is for Operation Montserrat):

Investigation question: How can you use the volcano data to predict the consequences of these natural disasters to save lives and property?




How did you feel when you thought and wrote about this question?




__ Very bored

__ Bored

__ A little bored

__ Liked it a little
__ Liked it
__ Liked it a lot

Administer the investigation question pilot test to a sample of your target audience (between 15 and 30 participants). Give the participants about 10 minutes to complete the task. If you are working with a regular classroom, you should have an extension activity available if learners finish early.

Once the written portion of the test is completed, you may wish to conduct a class discussion about the investigation question. Although this option is open to you and might provide useful insights, the Virtual Design Center does not require it. Taking notes of what you observe during the testing and classroom discussion are also very helpful.

Deliverable 3-2: Results of Your Pilot Testing

Understanding learners’ prior knowledge and misconceptions helps you to better shape your inquiry activity design. Analyze learner answers to the investigation question. At this point you can assume that your learners are not able to provide an accurate answer. However, you may find some evidence that learners are building appropriate mental models of the content area or science practice. Report on:

  • Appropriate mental models of content knowledge and practice of science. For example, using the investigation question above, this might include knowledge about volcanoes and hurricanes, relationships between volcanic eruptions and human death, or procedures to evacuate people from the potentially hazardous area.

  • Naive conceptions and misconceptions. Read some sample naive conceptions related to the above investigation question.

  • Based on the analysis, your interpretation of which educational standards are especially important for your population from your standards list (from step 2).

Report the average interest-level ranking. Add your qualitative observations (for example, are learners engaged?) in addition to the ranking.

Report your conclusions on your investigation and include your revised question (if your results indicate a need for its revision). Continue using the investigation question outline you filled in from activity 3-1.

Review the following examples to see the work of other teams that have completed deliverable 3-2.

Return to step 3 for debriefing.

Main | Activity 3-1 | Activity 3-2


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