The Importance of Teaching Students That One Trial Does Not Make a Science Investigation

Yesterday I was in my yard planting my fall bulbs so I will have flowers in the Spring. My neighbor came to tell me that I needed to pour approximately one cup of coffee on top of each bulb because her mother once spilled her coffee on top of her bulbs in the Fall and that Spring she had the most beautiful flowers in her yard.

Well, now I’m ready to do a proper investigation to see if pouring coffee on bulbs in the Fall really does help them grow in the Spring. Until I conduct a proper controlled investigation, the jury is out on this particular bit of advice because one trial is not sufficient evidence to support a claim.

As educators, we know the importance of teaching our students to discern between quality sources and those that merely purport lies. However, it is equally important for us to teach our students that one trial is not sufficient evidence. Within Inq-ITS, we provide both alerts and Rex, the AI coach, assistance if students attempt to support a claim with only one trial.

Through practice, students will gain the practice of running multiple controlled trials targeting their independent variable so they can support their claim with evidence. These are the critical thinking skills that we want our students to retain when they leave our classrooms.