Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Scientific Reason Not Scientific Treason

Scientific Method vs. Scientific Thinking

K20 Center, Allison Shannon | Published: March 19th, 2021 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course Biology I, Biology II, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Physics
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 120 minutes


Students are introduced to a more holistic view of doing the scientific method by using scientific thinking instead.  Students will be challenged to review and revise what they already know about the scientific method.  Students will investigate what it means to do science and discover why some science is not good science.  Students will also identify reasons that some scientists may participate in bad science.

Essential Question(s)

What is the difference between the scientific method and scientific thinking?  



The teacher performs a crazy experiment, following the scientific method, using the class as subjects.


Students review the scientific method, refer back to the opening experiment, and critique the teacher's method.


Students create a justified list about the credibility of the opening experiment.


Students watch four videos that give information on junk science, biases in science, a flawed scientific method, and skepticism in science. The students review their prior knowledge to the knowledge gained through the videos.


Students write a letter to the teacher outlining the flaws in the teacher's opening experiment. Students must answer the essential question in the letter.


  • Penny

  • Blank paper


As students enter the room and take their seats, the song Weird Science will be playing. See the note about playing the video.

Once the bell has rung, turn off the music and tell the class, "There is a student in our midst today who is psychic." The students will look at each other and laugh, thinking you are crazy. Reaffirm what you just said, "Yes, indeed I believe that there is a student in this class who is psychic, and I want to test my hypothesis right now. Stand up. Raise your hand if you think the coin that I am going to toss in a few seconds will land on heads. Keep your hands raised." Pay attention to the student whose name you wrote down before the period started. Your results will be skewed every time to match the side that student thinks the coin will land. Flip the coin so that you catch it and no one sees on which side it landed.

If the chosen student has a raised hand for heads, be sure to call heads even if the coin landed on tails. If the student does not have a raised hand, be sure to call tails even if the coin landed on heads. Ask the losing students to please sit down. Now say, "Raise your hand high if you think the coin will land on tails this time. Keep your hand raised." Again, be sure that your chosen student remains standing. Skew the result of the coin toss in his/her favor. Continue doing this until only that students remains standing.

Once the chosen student is the last to remain, declare "My hypothesis is supported we do indeed have a psychic in our midst." Students will immediately start to question you and your method, although some will have total buy-in. To jazz it up, now you can take the envelope from the desk drawer and declare, "Before class began I wrote down one name. The name in this envelope is the person that I believed to be the psychic." Reveal the name. It should match the student that is standing.


Ask the students, "Is what just happened a good example of "doing" science?" Most of the class will reach the consensus that no, it was not, but for various reasons. Allow the students to share their ideas, but do not give anything away. Just listen. Argue that yes it was real science. Show them the scientific method on the board.

Show a video from Khan Academy reviewing the scientific method. Ask students to jot down a few notes as they watch the video, as they will need them for the following activity.

Allow students to pair or pair them yourself. The students will use the strategy I Think/We Think to answer either question: "Why is my scientific endeavor from the beginning of class an example of a good science practice?" or "Why is it an example of a poor science practice?" Encourage students to think back to other science classes and draw from their own experiences conducting experiments. Also, encourage them to use their notes from the video to formulate their opinion(s).


Each pair of students will need to form a quad with another pair. Instruct the students to compare their We Think statements and create a justified list using the Justified List strategy on a blank piece of paper. As the students are working, approach each quad and allow them to share one statement from their justified list. Be sure that the students are justifying their statements, not just listing the things wrong or right with your opening experiment. They must tell why they believe what they write! Allow a representative from each group to read one statement complete with justification from the group's list.


Review the previous day with the students. Instruct them to review their justified list with their group. Remind them that the focus of the lesson is good vs. poor science practices.

Instruct students to take make two columns by drawing a centered vertical line in their notebook or on a sheet of paper. The first column should be titled good science and the second column titled bad science.

Show the following videos. The order isn't important. As they watch the videos, have them list the hallmarks of good science and the telltale signs of bad science. Make sure they keep in mind the opening activity and your argument that you were doing proper science. Allow time between each video for the groups to collaborate and discuss their notes.

The videos are: Junk Science, Why Be Skeptical, The Scientific Method is Crap, and Conflict of Interest.

Instruct the quads to review their justified list from the previous day and refine the list. Have them add anything they wish from the video or take anything away that now doesn't apply.

The quads will now create a I Used To Think But Now I Know chart. Ask students to cite specific examples from the videos that changed their minds. Let each group share one thing they thought and one thing they now know. Have quads turn in their sheet.


Students will return to their original seats, breaking from their quads. Write the essential question, "What is the difference between the scientific method and scientific thinking?" on the board or project it to the class. Instruct students to write a personal letter to you. In the letter they must describe why your scientific approach to finding a psychic in the room is flawed, describe why bias can occur in science, and answer the lesson’s essential question.