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  • The nature of science is concerned with science as a way of thinking, but this can’t exist in isolation, so the New Zealand curriculum document includes three other substrands of the nature of science to embed it within.

    The ‘Investigating in science’ strand of the curriculum is one of these three other substrands.

    Investigating in science achievement aim

    • Carry out science investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things, or developing systems.

    Levels 3–4 achievement objectives

    • Build on prior experiences, working together to share and examine their own and others’ knowledge.
    • Ask questions, find evidence, explore simple models, and carry out appropriate investigations to develop simple explanations.

    Levels 5–6 achievement objectives

    • Develop and carry out more complex investigations, including using models.
    • Show an increasing awareness of the complexity of working scientifically, including recognition of multiple variables.
    • Begin to evaluate the suitability of the investigative methods chosen.

    Most science curriculum documents would call this strand ‘scientific inquiry’ rather than nature of science. The two main ways this substrand can embed and deepen nature of science understanding are by:

    • giving students first-hand experience
    • drawing attention to nature of science aspects in students’ own investigations and in the investigation of scientists.

    First-hand experience

    Science and mātauranga pūtaiao use investigations to collect data and help make sense of the world around us. It is one thing to tell ākonga that scientists carry out science in a whole lot of different ways. It is even better to support this statement by giving students first-hand experience of a myriad of different ways of investigating.

    Engaging students in a wide variety of investigative processes will help debunk the myth of there being one ‘scientific method’ that scientists and kairangahau Māori follow.

    The scientific method, as far as it is a method, is nothing more than doing one’s damndest with one’s mind, no holds barred. In short, science is what scientists do, and there are as many scientific methods as there are individual scientists.

    Percy Bridgman

    All learners – from the early years to high school and beyond – are able to gather data. The article Investigating in science unpacks what this might look like in the classroom. It is also really valuable for students to see scientists and kairangahau Māori themselves carrying out a wide range of investigative approaches.

    The following interactive covers a range of scientific approaches along with helpful videos and links to practical resources.

    Bringing scientists into the classroom

    It is also invaluable for students to see scientists themselves carrying out a wide range of investigative approaches. The Science Learning Hub provides this opportunity by showing scientists engaged in many different types of investigative research. Videos of scientists also enable students to see themselves in science.

    Additional resources

    The Hub has a huge range of resources. Below is a selection of resources that feature different types of investigative research.

    Observing (with the naked eye or with the aid of technology)



    For more, explore the range of resources under the classification concept.

    Gathering and interpreting data

    Pattern seeking

    Investigating models

    For more, explore the range of resources under the models in science concept.

    Developing systems

    Making it explicit

    Whether the students are engaged in investigations first-hand or are watching videos of scientists and their research, we need to keep drawing students’ attention to learning about science as well as the doing science in these investigations. They should see that, far from there being only one nice tidy linear scientific method that all scientists follow, in fact, investigating in science is often messy and circuitous. They should see tenets of the nature of science in their own wide range of investigations and in the even wider range of scientists’ investigations to which they are exposed.

    Science is said to proceed on two legs, one of theory and the other of observation and experiment. Its progress, however, is less often a commanding stride than a kind of halting stagger – more like the path of the wandering minstrel than the straight-ruled trajectory of a military marching band. The development of science is influenced by intellectual fashions, is frequently dependent upon the growth of technology and, in any case, seldom can be planned far in advance, since its destination is usually unknown.

    Timothy Ferris

    Related content

    The science capabilities contribute to a functional knowledge of science and scientific investigations. Learn more about the capabilities with the following PLD webinars:

    Develop students' capabilities with these activities:

    Useful link

    Understanding Science is an educational website for teaching and learning about the nature and process of science. It has an interactive flowchart that represents the process of scientific inquiry, with links to relevant teaching and learning resources.

      Published 7 October 2011, Updated 16 February 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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