The Benefit of Predicting an Experimental Outcome

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You’re at the beach exploring buoyancy with your students. You want to see whether an egg will float in the ocean’s salty water. You drop an egg in the ocean, and tada! It floats! Oh no… I’ve just ruined the outcome for you. Predicting whether the egg will float and why before you see the experiment is part of the fun! It’s also an essential part of the learning process.

This is the finding of a Harvard study on the effectiveness of predicting experimental outcomes before observing a demonstration. The study states that, “Students who predict the demonstration outcome before seeing it [. . .] display significantly greater understanding.”   It takes the point even further to show that, “students who passively observe demonstrations understand the underlying concepts no better than students who do not see the demonstration at all.”

At Beach Physics, we will continually incorporate this idea of hypothesizing before observing into our materials, be it viewer predictions in a video, or pre-lab questions in a hands-on activity.

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