Question: Single or Multiple Hypotheis?

Boukmn boukmn at
Sun Mar 29 14:48:14 EST 1998

Question: Single or Multiple Hypotheis?

A controversy has emerged at our school largely between teachers with
Degree Science Backgrounds and teachers with Traditional Education
Degrees, over the appropriateness of allowing students to use single 
as opposed to multiple hypothesis testing to answer a scientific
question.  DSB teachers adopt the multiple hypothesis approach ,
claiming that 

	a.)	‘Real’ scientists always investigate several possible
explanations for the question they wish to answer. They in turn design
their experiments to attack each of these possibilities with equal

	b.)	They believe all students should be taught the
scientific method more in line with ‘real world’ practice using terms
and subjects that is age appropriate. 

	c.)	They wince at statements like “ A hypothesis is an
educated guess.” calling this an oxymoron.  The DSB’s reason that
since  hypotheses are explanations based of carefully gathered
background information, calling hypotheses a guess cheapens their
rigor in the minds of students. 

On the other side, TED teachers (the vast majority) believe students
should propose the best hypothesis to answer their question, design
the experiment to test their hypothesis.  If the data does not support
their hypothesis, they then propose a new one and then test it.  The
TED’s see no reason why students in middle and high school  who should
be burdened with having to propose more than one possible explanation
to answer their scientific question for two reasons:

	a.)	most are not going to college and of those that do go,
most will not be science majors.

	b.)	students in advanced and gifted programs are not
required to propose multiple hypothesis for their project entries and
based on the winners, there seems to be no advantage in doing so.

	c.)	they know of no leading secondary or tertiary
educational institution that endorses ‘multiple hypothesis’ as
doctrine in teaching the scientific method.

 I want what is best for my students in terms of accuracy and would
love to hear from science teachers and scientists their most
persuasive arguments on either side of this issue.  Please e-mail me.


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