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Genius Unleashed

Unit Summary:

This project is designed to be the first in a series of units that will guide students in the principles of experimental design and lead to completing a successful independent science research project. Students generate an authentic experimental idea through natural curiosity and interest.  Using this authentic idea, they use the Showing Evidence Tool to collect sound research that develops and supports a hypothesis. Students conduct a review of literature, which will be used as the first component of their scientific research paper and authentic science research project.


Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How do we explain what happens around us?
  • Unit Questions
    How is scientific knowledge generated and validated?
    How do you formulate a hypothesis?
    How do you find evidence to support your science research topic?
  • Content Questions
    How do you determine independent and dependent variables?
    How do you conduct a literature review?



Students learn the expectations of their authentic science research project and the requirements, which include generating a project idea, completing background research, and writing a review of literature. The Essential Question is introduced, and students spend some time discussing it and writing their initial thoughts in science journals.

Students begin their independent science research project by generating possible research topics. They list 10 items of interest, being as specific as possible. Next, students select three items from the list and create concept maps for each topic. The concept maps allow students to begin thinking of related topics and ideas. Next, students choose three topics from the maps and begin their research. Students find and read two sources of information for each topic, highlighting important points. A student-teacher or student-student conference gives students a chance to discuss the information they discovered. Discussion centers on what interested them most about the information they discovered, and what questions came into their mind as they were reading the material. This process generates a list of questions that may be used for experimental design.

Next, students begin writing possible experimental design questions or hypotheses. Students take the information gathered from the research and discussion and put their questions into testable problem statements and hypotheses. The class discusses how to determine independent and dependent variables. Then, using The Four-Question Strategy from Students and Research by Cothron, Giese, and Rezba, students brainstorm numerous variables, constants, and hypotheses for experiments. The teacher models a sequence of four questions for generating experimental ideas from a general topic. The following example uses plants as the topic:

  • Q1.  What materials are readily available for conducting experiments on (plants)?
  • Q2.  How do (plants) act?
  • Q3.  How can you change the set of (plant) materials to affect the action?
  • Q4.  How can you measure or describe the response of  (plants) to the change?

Students learn to write a hypothesis by relating a response to Question 3 with a response to Question 4, using the following format:  If I change (an independent variable from Question 3), then, the (dependent variable from Question 4) will change.

Students choose a hypothesis that relates to their own interests, and use the Showing Evidence Tool to organize evidence to support or refute their hypothesis. They use a rating scale to determine the reliability of their evidence.

Once the evidence is gathered and rated, students determine if there is enough evidence to support their hypothesis. If so, students use the research to begin writing a literature review for their independent science research project. If not, they can revise their hypothesis or pick another research topic.

The teacher leads students in a discussion of the components of a literature review. The class examines strong and weak examples to help students garner a sound understanding of the features of a good review. These features include: General Background Information—important characteristics of the independent and dependent variables;  Analysis of Prior Research—brief summary of scientific studies that directly relate to the student’s research; and Statement of the Problem—includes the rationale, purpose, and hypothesis.

Using a literature review rubric to guide discussion, each student conferences with a peer and then the teacher. This solidifies the student’s literature review and prepares him or her for the next phase in the research project.

The teacher may also set up an expert or mentor as a reviewer of a student’s project by adding this person as a “team” in the teacher workspace for the Showing Evidence Tool.


Examine the Showing Evidence Activity

The Showing Evidence Tool space below represents one team's investigation in this project. You can double-click on the evidence to read the team's descriptions.

Project Name: Genius Unleashed (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)

Prompt: What are the most important pieces of evidence related to your science research topic that will help you formulate your hypothesis?

Explore an interactive demo.

Genius Unleashed
Genius Unleashed

At a Glance

Grade Level: 7-12

Subjects: Science

Key Learnings: Independent Research, Scientific Literacy, Formulating Hypothesis, Scientific Literature Review, Technology.

Time Needed: Nine weeks, one 45-minute session per week