I’ve written extensively about rewriting KS3 here. In short, the idea is to specify a curriculum as a series of questions which need to be answered. The advantages of this method are:

- No ambiguity about what is to be taught
- Consistency of language
- Consistency of assessment
- Appropriate sequencing of knowledge requires teachers to really think about their subject
- Powerful tool for student long term memory
- Powerful tool for sequencing in the classroom and breaking material into small pieces

I am currently writing a scheme for a How Science Works unit. In the past, this has tended to be taught in kind of a haphazard way with a lot of unstructured progression through graphing, some practical work, endless mention of fair test, constant confusion of students regarding variables and, of course, a do-it-yourself investigation.

I wanted to clean things up a bit and bring it more into line with the overarching philosophy. I’ve written Core Questions for the topic and have drawn heavily on the ASE’s Mathematics in Science document. It’s been incredibly difficult but what I have so far is below.

I’ve tried to thread two canonical examples throughout the unit. You cannot talk about HSW without specific examples so I have limited it to two which are based on concepts students have already learned to a high level and can be illustrative examples throughout the unit (along with others where necessary too, but these will be the main ones). Throughout, I have obviously had to (over)simplify and be pretty ruthless with ambiguity. This is for students in KS3 and just has to cover the basics in a rigorous but straightforward way.

Anyway, I would really love people’s opinions on the way I have specifically worded and sequenced the questions and any errors or omissions. You can either comment in the comments here, on twitter or on this live google doc that some of my colleagues are already commenting on and elaborates on some of my thinking too (especially on language surrounding variables). Thanks in advance!

Theories and evidence | What is a scientific theory? | An idea used to explain events |

What is the theory of conservation of mass? | That atoms cannot be created or destroyed in a chemical reaction, just rearranged | |

What does the theory of conservation of mass explain? | How masses of reactants and products change in a chemical reaction | |

What is the theory of interdependence? | That animals and a plant in a food web depend on each other | |

What does the theory of interdependence explain? | How the populations of organisms in a food web can change | |

How are theories proved or disproved? | By collecting evidence | |

What is evidence? | Information that can be used to prove or disprove a theory | |

How is evidence generated? | Through a scientific experiment | |

Types of data | What is experimental data? | The information collected from an experiment |

In what three ways can data be generated in an experiment? | Through measurement, observation or counting | |

What is a measurement? | The result of an experiment that can be measured with scientific equipment | |

Given three examples of measurements | Mass, distance, time, force, wavelength, temperature | |

What is an observation? | Something that can be seen in an experiment | |

Give three examples of observations | Colour, giving off light (luminescence), giving off gas, movement, change in state | |

What are the three types of data? | Continuous, categorical and discrete | |

What is continuous data? | Numerical (number) data where the number can be any size | |

How is continuous data generated? | Through a measurement | |

Why is the mass of a substance continuous data? | Because the mass can be any number | |

What is categorical data? | Data which has no numbers but can be put into categories (groups) | |

How is categorical data generated? | Through observation | |

Why is eye colour categorical data? | Because there are no numbers but the different colours can be categorised e.g. blue, brown | |

What is discrete data? | Data with numbers, but only certain numbers are allowed | |

How is discrete data generated? | By counting | |

Why is the number of animals in a certain area discrete data? | Because it will be a number but only whole numbers are allowed (you cannot have half an animal) | |

Variables | What is a variable? | Something that changes in an experiment |

What are the three types of variable? | Independent, dependent and controlled | |

What is an independent variable? | A variable that could be changed by the scientist | |

What is the dependent variable? | The variable that is observed, measured or counted by the scientist | |

What is a controlled variable? | A variable that is kept the same throughout the experiment. | |

What is a fair test? | An experiment where all possible independent variables are controlled other than one | |

Why is it important that tests are fair? | So that you know which variable was having an effect | |

Give three variables that could affect the mass of a product from a reaction | Mass of reactants, time allowed for reaction to take place, temperature at which reaction takes place | |

Give three variables that could affect the number of organisms there are in a certain area | Human activities, environment, disease | |

Features of experiments | What is a scientific prediction? | A prediction about how the independent variable will affect the dependent variable |

What is reliability? | How likely your results are to be repeated | |

How can you increase the reliability of your experiment? | By repeating it and taking a mean | |

Displaying results | What is a table of results? | A table showing experimental data |

What are the key features of a table of results? | Drawn in pencil with a ruler, units in brackets | |

What are charts and graphs? | Ways to present data | |

What are the most common types of chart and graph? | Line graph and bar chart | |

What kinds of chart and graph are most common? | Bar charts and line graphs | |

What data is best presented in a bar chart? | Categorical or discrete | |

What data is best presented in a line graph? | Continuous or discrete | |

What are the key features of charts and graphs? | All drawn in pencil, on graph paper, title, labelled axes, units in brackets, appropriate scale, uses half the page | |

Which axis does each variable go on? | Independent on the x, dependent on the y | |

What is a scale? | How the boxes on the graph paper relates to the values | |

How should scales be drawn? | Each large box represents 1,2 or 5 as a multiple of 10 | |

What is a line of best fit? | A line that best fits the data | |

What are the two types of line of best fit? | Straight lines and curves | |

Interpreting results | What can the line show you? | A scientific relationship |

What is a scientific relationship? | How the independent variable affects the dependent variable | |

How can relationships be described? | As x increases/decreases, y increases/decreases | |

What is a conclusion? | A statement that says whether your prediction was correct |

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