Guest Blog by GLOBE Teacher Bill Meyers: Developing Research Questions

Picture of Bill MeyersPlease welcome Guest Blogger Bill Meyers, a GLOBE teacher from Alexander Dawson School in Lafayette, Colorado.

This is the first in a series of posts by GLOBE teachers sharing classroom experiences to support the student research process. The series is supported by NSF funding for the United States Regional Student Research Symposia. If you are a teacher interested in contributing, please contact Haley Wicklein for more information.

Thank you to Bill for sharing this and starting off our series!

I currently have two students who are doing research for this year’s Science Symposium. They are in my 8th grade Earth Science class.

At the beginning of the school year I introduced my classes to the surface water protocols and the Green-Down protocol. These two students wanted to go further and decided to set up a science project. One of them wanted to do a project using the Green-Up data and the other wanted to do a stream project looking at macro invertebrates and water chemistry.

As they started working on their projects the student interested in Green-Down soon became frustrated because she wanted to see how weather impacted the date that leaves changed color and fell off trees. She had her own data from this year and could find data for three other years from our school, but she did not think that that was a long enough period of time.

Then she was not sure where to get the weather data since we do not collect that at school.

Could she also compare our data to other schools?

They had different tree species.

What kind of impact did that have?

What about latitude and elevation?

It soon became too difficult to write a research question so she decided to join her friend and work on the

They decided to see if changes in the water chemistry affected the macro-invertebrate species. They had already begun collecting these data and would continue monthly through the winter.

Weather was also a factor that interested them but they decided that it would broaden the question too much.

As the students go through this process, I pose questions such as:

Picture of two students presenting their research at the 2016 Southwest Science Fair in Houston, TX.
Students presenting their research at
the 2016 Southwest Science Fair in Houston, TX.

Is this GLOBE data?
Can you collect this data?
How much time will be required?
What equipment will you need? Is this available?

Many students want to use the internet to look up data rather than collecting it. They may have ideas that are
too elaborate for what is practical. Sometimes they get into information that may be too difficult for an 8th grade
student to understand.

By asking questions I am still allowing them to create their own project but guiding them in a direction that hopefully will be successful.

For more information on helping students develop a research question or investigation, view our webinar and resources found on this page.

On 1 February 2017, drop by the virtual open office hours hosted by the Mid-West Symposium leadership team (Steven Smith, Purdue; Kevin Czajkowski, University of Toledo and David Bydlowski, Wayne Co. RESA) where they will be available to answer any questions you have on this process! The team will be online from 3:30-5pm EST.

Promptly at 4pm EST, Dr. Mike Jabot from the State University of New York, Fredonia, will present another technique for developing research questions. This resource is from The Right Question Institute

More Blog Entries

I sincerely appreciate the fact that you posed questions for your students to "guide" them toward finding their own research question. Student ownership is such a valuable component of the scientific process that will create within them the desire to continue to pursue such experiences.