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  • SciQ Sequences

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Interactive teaching
Topic: Brain & behaviour

One of our most popular and highly rated activities - for introducing the concept of validity in the design of scientific experiments. It is the trial version of an activity for a new upd8 programme, SciQ, which will teach students about the nature of science. It is based on the card game 'Cheat' (or 'I doubt it').The scenario is a scientific conference where scientists are learning about – and criticising - each others' work. Instead of challenging the cards laid down, students are challenging scientific claims.

Published: 27th April 2006
Reviews & Comments: 11

Learning objectives

14 – 16 (KS4) How science works.
2d evaluate methods of collection of data and consider their validity and reliability as evidence.

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Students will:
-accurately assess the validity of a scientific claim.
-construct an argument against an invalid claim, with correct reasoning.
-recall that scientists share their findings at conferences.

Scientific language
It's been shown that one of the key difficulties for students is learning the language of doing, talking and thinking science. It helps if the teacher models it, and explains the rationale for the concepts. In this activity the focus is on:

DATA: these are the measurements collected.
EVIDENCE: the meaning of the measurements.
REASONING: the argument connecting the data and claim?
VALIDITY: the quality check
INDEPENDENT VARIABLES: the quantities being changed, or controlled.
DEPENDENT VARIABLES: the quantity being measured.

Running the activity

Start by showing slide 1 which tells how leeches were used in medicine. Ask pupils what they think the moral of the story is. One answer is that treatments should be based on evidence, not belief. Then show the second story, about the MMR controversy. Ask students what they think the message is here. For example: that it's important for people to know what counts as 'good enough' evidence to support a scientific claim.

In this activity pupils explore the concept of 'validity' - a measure of the quality of evidence - by playing an adapted version of the game 'Cheat'. Cheat is a popular card game, where players make claims – which can be true or false – about the cards they are laying down e.g. three 'kings'. The other players have to decide whether to challenge the claim or not. What happens between scientists at a conference has some things in common with the game. A researcher presents a new finding. The scientists in the audience examine the evidence and may challenge the claim; although they usually do it more politely. The activity simulates the game of 'cheat' in order to motivate students to look critically at scientific claims and express their doubts.

There are two ways to run this game using the PowerPoint activity file.

A. With a whole class
The teacher takes the role of the speaker presenting the claims, and the pupils play scientists in the audience. The game is competitive, so pupils could play in teams of 5-6. They gain points by making correct, well-reasoned challenges. The winner is the team with most points.

Here are the instructions for playing:

1. Use slide 3 to introduce the activity as a version of 'Cheat' that simulates a scientific conference. Tell students the rules of the game. They need to find reasons to doubt the validity of the claims, and express their concerns using scientific terms.
2. Using slide 4, pretend to be a scientist presenting a summary of your evidence.
3. Let students decide which information they want to see next. This can be decided by a show of hands.
4. Click the hyperlink to reveal the selected information. Then allow students to start making challenges.
5. Give points for each challenge, based on its correctness and the quality of the student's reasoning.
6. Repeat the process with the other claims.

B. With groups of 4
One is the judge. They have to decide whether the claims and reasons are correct. They can be given the suggested answers. The others take turns to present the claims, and compete to get most correct challenges.

Slides 4 onwards can be printed out, for each group. If you print them 4 to a page, all the information about one claim, will come out as 4 'boxes' on one sheet. These can be cut up for the groups to work with. On the page setup menu, make sure 'landscape' is checked for notes, handouts and outline. Then, on the print dialog box, choose the options:
print range: slides 4-15
print what: handouts
slides per page: 4
and if you want to save ink:
colour/greyscale: pure black and white

The 'possible answers' slide has examples for each case and these are explained on the downloadable teacher's guide. You could also allow challenges based on the omission of key information about the research.

What is the SciQ programme?

The most important reason for learning 'how science works' is that students become skilled at applying critical thinking skills to the science they meet in their everyday lives. This ability to make use of scientific thinking is what we term 'SciQ'. Upd8 is providing a programme to cover all the skills involved, through:

upd8Tools - activities to introduce and explore 'how science works' concepts through game-based learning based on Tony Sherborne's NESTA fellowship work.

upd8Topics - activities to apply the concepts to topical contexts across the breadth of science. These are similar to existing upd8 activities, but with a more investigational approach, and will be refreshed during the year.

upd8Tools and Topics are designed to fit a 5 stage approach to teaching 'how science works', called the 5E's:

The first 2 stages are covered by upd8Tools:

Engage: to capture students' attention, identify the learning objective,
and access prior knowledge or misconceptions.

Explore: to let students gain experience from which to draw out concepts,
e.g. through a game or investigation.

The third stage will be covered with a separate published 'SciQ guide': a 'pupils-eye' view of how science works, with various learning aids.

Explain: to define and describe new concepts and clarify understanding
from the Explore stage of the analysis.

The final stages are covered by upd8Topics:

Extend: solidifies new concepts by applying them to real-world situations
and using them to solve problems.

Evaluate: assesses students' progress and understanding,
through a performance-based task.

PLEASE NOTE - if you are using the pdf rather than the Power Point the links will only work within the Power Point presentation!

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Group work day

Oct 10th, 2006

5 Star

This went down really well with my year 10 GCSE group. They got into the discussion phase and the game got lost in this. They were more interested in the ideas than the point scoring!!

Reviewer: Deborah Bradley


Jul 19th, 2006

5 Star

A supurb way to summerise the 'How science works' unit of work and reinforce the learning of key words.

Reviewer: Justin Low


Jun 20th, 2006

5 Star

Fantastic to use with groups of students to promote thinking, discussion and debate amongst students. Students thoroughly enjoyed the lesson. More activities like this please.

Reviewer: Helen McNeoll


Jun 17th, 2006

4 Star

Like other reviewers I used this as part of a post SATs program of study and I did not run it as a cheat game. It was successful in promoting discussion and also gave an opportunity for pupils to present to the rest of the class. I am afraid that I did not use the MMR material because I have had discussions i n the past with a student whose brother has autism and their family have chosen to blame the MMR vaccine. You can argue that our job is to challenge preconceptions but an hours debate is not long enough to challenge a life times emotional investment. I would warn other teachers to be sensitive to this aspect of the material.

Reviewer: Jane Canning


Jun 14th, 2006

4 Star

I liked this tremendously. It provided more than an hours discussion as there are many excellent leaping off points.

Reviewer: Stephen Brian

Stimulates discussion

Jun 9th, 2006

5 Star

This worked really well as a one off lesson to fill a gap in the timetable. Not only did pupils walk away with a much better idea about how to judge claims made in the media, but they also learnt a lot about issues such as the MMR vaccine and autism. Having the activity as a competition and with a really good interactive powerpoint was a big motivation. Pupils loved it!

Reviewer: Debbie Archer

Cheat May 22nd

May 22nd, 2006

4 Star

A good post SATs and pre-GCSE activity - it prompted lots of questions about the manipulation of data.

Reviewer: Lynne Baron

More please!

May 20th, 2006

5 Star

A superb resource that I hope we will see more of. I have used it with year 9 (post-SAT) but without the 'cheat' facility in order to encourage more & longer thinking ~ with 'cheat' there is a tendency for some to rush to be first.

Reviewer: jim garrett


May 13th, 2006

4 Star

An excellent resource as starting point for introducing The new "How Science Works". It worked well with with a mid ability Yr ( group, post SAT's.

Reviewer: Elton Beale


May 5th, 2006

5 Star

An excellent resource for the nw GCSE, please present more of these ideas also include some of the moral/social implications in modern science

Reviewer: Pam Burgess


Apr 28th, 2006

5 Star

This is exactly the type of resources that we need to help us deliver the new Science curriculum - more of this please!

Reviewer: Nicola Pollock