In an investigation the learners are not observing nature directly or collecting their own evidence. They are interviewing people, examining documents, and reading what others have said about a topic. Then they draw some conclusions based on what they have learned.
Just because they are not collecting original evidence does not mean that the quality of the evidence is not important to them. They need to be careful to use reliable sources and truthful information. What learners have after performing this kind of process is not a scientific theory. Rather it is an argument.
For example, a Grade 6 learner is investigating a Zulu battle. He reads several accounts by Zulu historians and by soldiers. He also reads biographies of Zulu chiefs. After he has collected all this information, he makes some conclusions about what happened there. His conclusions must follow the rules, not of the scientific method, but of good argumentation. His opinion about the battle must be supported by credible evidence and follow the standards for good reasoning. The Showing Evidence Tool* can help learners form good arguments.
Both kinds of inquiry are important in the classroom, but some are more appropriate for different subject areas and different topics. For example, learners do not have access to the kinds of equipment necessary for many types of scientific experiments, but they can devise experiments using the natural materials they find around them. On the other hand, many historical, social, and political topics can be understood best through investigation, bearing in mind that there are also rules about drawing conclusions in these areas, too.
Marzano, R. J. (2000). Designing a new taxonomy of educational objectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
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