Lesson idea: Intro to the scientific method in psychology

Travis DixonUncategorized

The scientific method is rather intuitive, so in one of my first lessons in the course I like to pose a problem to students and get them to see how they would solve it.

Here’s the problem: I’m trying to grow tomatoes in my garden and there are two types of fertilizer for sale. I want to know which one is the best to use, or is it better just to not use any. What would you do to find the answer to this question?

What you’ll find is that students will naturally design an experiment. They’ll come up with something like, “have three different tomato plants in different pots and give one each of the different fertilizers and leave one without any fertilizer and see what grows the best.”

This can then be used to introduce some basic terms like independent, dependent, extraneous and confounding variables.

Second task: Still working in groups, students can then discuss questions related to human behaviour and/or cognition that they’d be curious to find the answers to. Get them to pose a question and then try to figure out how they could go about finding the answer. This usually makes for some interesting class discussion. Finally, get students to compare their approach to the diagram below about the scientific method. How closely did their approach follow this format. Then get them to discuss the guiding question for the lesson. As usual, fast finishers can tackle the abstraction extension (all found on pg. 15).

The Scientific Method