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NSW Syllabuses

Working Scientifically

Working Scientifically skills are at the core of conducting practical and secondary-sourced investigations in science. 

Opportunities should be provided for students to engage with all the Working Scientifically skills in investigations. In each module, particular outcomes have been identified as those that are most relevant to the intended learning. 

Students are challenged to further develop their understanding of Working Scientifically as a group of dynamic and interdependent processes that are applied in each scientific investigation in a way that is appropriate and determined by the activity. This dynamism and interrelatedness adds a level of sophistication to students’ understanding of the true nature and practice of science. Through regular involvement in these processes, applying them as appropriate, in a range of varied practical investigations, students can broaden their interpretation of Working Scientifically beyond the common linear model. 

Students are encouraged to select the most appropriate gateway to the Working Scientifically processes. The pathways within the processes become self-evident through the nature of the investigation. An investigation may be instigated by, for example:

  • direct observation of a phenomenon
  • inconsistencies arising from results of a related investigation
  • the qualitative and quantitative analysis of data
  • secondary-sourced research. 

Students are challenged to be open to:

  • refining or redeveloping their chosen procedures
  • redefining their questions and/or hypotheses
  • modifying their methodologies or designs
  • conducting further practical investigations
  • conducting further secondary research. 

Students are also encouraged to communicate evidence-based conclusions and suggest ideas for future research. Unexpected results are to be welcomed to refine methodologies and to generate further investigation. Knowledge and understanding of science is essential to these processes. Through this practice of science, students can acquire a deeper knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts.

The Working Scientifically diagram shows a central circle labelled Working Scientifically. Surrounding the central circle is a ring of circles interconnected with double ended arrows. Each circle represents the seven Working Scientifically outcomes: Questioning and Predicting, Planning Investigations, Conducting Investigations, Processing Data and Information, Analysing Data and Information, Problem Solving and Communicating. Wrapping around the main diagram is a double ended arrow pointing to a circle labelled Knowledge and Understanding.

Each of the seven Working Scientifically outcomes represents one of the interdependent dynamic processes that are central to the study of science and the acquisition of scientific knowledge and skills. This course is structured to provide ongoing opportunities for students to implement these processes, particularly through the depth study provision. The following descriptions of the Working Scientifically outcomes provide further information about the skills students are expected to develop throughout the course.

Questioning and Predicting

Developing, proposing and evaluating inquiry questions and hypotheses challenge students to identify an issue or phenomenon that can be investigated scientifically by gathering primary and/or secondary-sourced data. Students develop inquiry question(s) that require observations, experimentation and/or research to aid in constructing a reasonable and informed hypothesis. The consideration of variables is to be included in the questioning process. 

Planning Investigations

Students justify the selection of equipment, resources chosen and design of an investigation. They ensure that all risks are assessed, appropriate materials and technologies are sourced, and all ethical concerns are considered. Variables are to be identified as independent, dependent and controlled to ensure a valid procedure is developed that will allow for the reliable collection of data. Investigations should include strategies that ensure controlled variables are kept constant and an experimental control is used as appropriate.

Conducting Investigations

Students are to select appropriate equipment, employ safe work practices and ensure that risk assessments are conducted and followed. Appropriate technologies are to be used and procedures followed when disposing of waste. The selection and criteria for collecting valid and reliable data is to be methodical and, where appropriate, secondary-sourced information referenced correctly.

Processing Data and Information

Students use the most appropriate and meaningful methods and media to organise and analyse data and information sources, including digital technologies and the use of a variety of visual representations as appropriate. They process data from primary and secondary sources, including both qualitative and quantitative data and information.

Analysing Data and Information

Students identify trends, patterns and relationships; recognise error, uncertainty and limitations in data; and interpret scientific and media texts. They evaluate the relevance, accuracy, validity and reliability of the primary or secondary-sourced data in relation to investigations. They evaluate processes, claims and conclusions by considering the quality of available evidence, and use reasoning to construct scientific arguments. Where appropriate, mathematical models are to be applied to demonstrate the trends and relationships that occur in data.

Problem Solving

Students use critical thinking skills and creativity to demonstrate an understanding of scientific principles underlying the solutions to inquiry questions and problems posed in investigations. Appropriate and varied strategies are employed, including the use of models to qualitatively and quantitatively explain and predict cause-and-effect relationships. In Working Scientifically, students synthesise and use evidence to construct and justify conclusions. To solve problems, students: interpret scientific and media texts; evaluate processes, claims and conclusions; and consider the quality of available evidence.

Communicating

Communicating all components of the Working Scientifically processes with clarity and accuracy is essential. Students use qualitative and quantitative information gained from investigations using primary and secondary sources, including digital, visual, written and/or verbal forms of communication as appropriate. They apply appropriate scientific notations and nomenclature. They also appropriately apply and use scientific language that is suitable for specific audiences and contexts.