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A practice of science is to ask and refine questions that lead to descriptions and explanations of how the natural and designed world works and which can be empirically tested.

Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

Asking questions is an essential practice in the field of science, while defining problems is crucial in engineering. Both practices share the goal of promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

In science, asking questions allows us to explore the natural world, make observations, and seek explanations for various phenomena. By posing thoughtful questions, scientists can formulate hypotheses and design experiments to test their ideas. This practice helps in advancing scientific knowledge and understanding.

On the other hand, engineering involves identifying and defining problems that need to be solved. Engineers strive to find practical solutions to real-world challenges by understanding the problem at hand, considering various constraints, and developing innovative approaches. Defining problems accurately is essential for effective problem-solving in engineering.

Both practices are interconnected as they involve inquiry and investigation. Scientists and engineers often collaborate to address complex challenges, with scientists asking questions to deepen their understanding of the problem, while engineers define the problem's scope and constraints for effective solution development.

By emphasizing these practices in science and engineering education, we can foster critical thinking skills, creativity, and curiosity among learners. Encouraging students to ask questions and define problems helps develop their analytical abilities and prepares them for future scientific research or engineering projects.


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The Science and Engineering Practice of Asking Questions and Defining Problems is a fundamental step in the scientific and engineering process. It involves formulating inquiries and identifying problems that can be investigated or solved through scientific and engineering methods. Here is an outline of the progression of this practice:

1. Asking Questions: This step involves asking questions that are clear, specific, and focused on understanding natural phenomena or addressing technological challenges. Questions should be based on observations, prior knowledge, and curiosity. Asking questions helps to define the scope of the investigation or problem-solving process.

2. Defining Problems: In this step, problems are identified and defined. Problems can arise from observations of discrepancies, inefficiencies, or limitations in current systems or processes. They can also stem from the need to improve existing solutions or develop new ones. Defining problems involves clearly articulating the issue, considering relevant constraints, and understanding the context in which the problem exists.

By engaging in the Science and Engineering Practice of Asking Questions and Defining Problems, students and scientists can develop critical thinking skills, curiosity, and the ability to identify and frame inquiries or challenges that can be addressed through scientific investigation or engineering design.

Performance Expectations that make use of this Science and Engineering Practice may include:

  • Develop and refine a scientific question or engineering problem to be investigated.

  • Define and delimit a specific problem that can be solved through scientific inquiry or engineering design.

  • Ask questions to clarify and seek additional information about a phenomenon, model, or unexpected result.

  • Develop and refine a testable hypothesis or design a solution to a given problem.

  • Identify limitations or constraints that need to be considered when formulating questions or defining problems.

These expectations emphasize the importance of asking meaningful questions and defining problems that can be effectively addressed through scientific and engineering practices.

Asking questions and defining problems is a fundamental practice in the fields of science and engineering. It serves as the starting point for exploration, investigation, and problem-solving. By formulating thoughtful inquiries and clearly identifying challenges or issues, scientists and engineers can direct their efforts towards finding solutions.

The progression of the Science and Engineering Practice of Asking Questions & Defining Problems involves several key steps. Initially, individuals must develop an understanding of the existing knowledge or context surrounding a particular subject. This may involve conducting background research or reviewing relevant literature.

Next, practitioners move on to formulating meaningful questions that address gaps in knowledge or areas of uncertainty. These questions should be specific, focused, and capable of guiding future investigations. They serve as a framework for inquiry and help researchers narrow down their objectives.

Once questions are established, scientists and engineers proceed to design experiments or plans to gather data that can provide insights into the identified problems. This stage requires careful consideration of variables, controls, measurement techniques, and other factors necessary for obtaining reliable results.

After collecting data through experimentation or observation, it is crucial to analyze it effectively. Scientists and engineers employ various methods such as statistical analysis or qualitative interpretation to make sense of the information gathered. This analysis helps identify patterns, trends, correlations, or potential solutions related to the defined problems.

Finally, based on their findings from analyzing data or observations, scientists and engineers draw conclusions regarding the initial questions asked and problems defined. These conclusions may lead to further iterations of testing hypotheses or refining problem statements for ongoing investigations.

Performance expectations in science education often incorporate this Science and Engineering Practice by requiring students to engage in asking questions & defining problems themselves. For example:

  • Students may be expected to generate inquiry-based research projects where they identify a question related to a scientific concept or phenomenon.

  • They might also be challenged with designing experiments that address specific problem statements within an engineering context.

  • Performance tasks could involve analyzing data collected from experiments or investigations to draw evidence-based conclusions regarding identified problems or questions.

  • Students may be expected to present their findings and communicate their understanding of the process of asking questions and defining problems.

By engaging in the Science and Engineering Practice of Asking Questions & Defining Problems, learners develop critical thinking skills, become proficient in scientific inquiry, and gain a deeper understanding of the complex challenges faced by scientists and engineers.

In the realm of scientific inquiry, asking questions is an essential skill that fuels curiosity and drives the process of discovery. Science Lesson 1 introduces simple yet effective strategies to help students get started in asking questions related to science. By understanding the importance of asking questions and employing these strategies, students can develop a strong foundation for scientific thinking and exploration.

Asking Questions Science Lesson 1: Simple Strategies to Get Started Asking Questions Science

In science, asking questions is a crucial step in the process of exploration and discovery. In Lesson 2 of the Asking Questions Science series, we delve into the topic of evaluating your questions. It is important to not only ask questions but also to assess their quality and relevance in order to gain meaningful insights.

This lesson will guide you through the process of evaluating your questions by considering factors such as clarity, specificity, and relevance to the scientific inquiry at hand. You will learn how to differentiate between open-ended and closed-ended questions, understand the importance of precision in formulating questions, and discover strategies for refining your inquiries.

By the end of this lesson, you will have a solid understanding of how to critically evaluate your own questions in order to enhance your scientific investigations. This skill will help you navigate through various scientific disciplines and contribute to advancing our understanding of the world around us. So let's dive in and explore the art of evaluating your questions in science!

Asking Questions Science Lesson 2: Evaluating Your Questions

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