Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mission Folder Tip: Constructing an Effective Hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated guess about how things work. An effective hypothesis should be a clearly stated and testable prediction of an outcome.

State Your Problem

Once teams have selected and saved their Mission Challenge, they are ready to start constructing a hypothesis statement. To begin, have the students state the problem they are trying to solve; this is known as the problem statement.

Example: There have been several students at our school who have been out sick for long periods of time due to the flu.

Form Your Hypothesis

The next step is to use the problem statement to form the hypothesis. Team Advisors and students should brainstorm together what the explanation or solution to the problem statement might be.

Teams are encouraged to research possible solutions to their problem statement and develop a workable hypothesis that can be tested through experimentation. Classroom discussions and the eCYBERMISSION Forums and Team Talk chat rooms are great places to discuss team findings and achieve consensus on possible solutions to the problem identified.

If teams become stuck on this step, students are encouraged to chat with a CyberGuide on the Discussion Forums on the eCYBERMISSION web site. Teams may also request a private chat with a CyberGuide for a more detailed discussion.

Hypothesis Statement Checklist

An effective hypothesis statement should be:

  • Clear, Simple & Direct
Hypothesis statements should be easy to read, short and understandable. The statements should be written in simple English and should framed as if the statement is explaining the problem to other students or teachers. This is not the place for technical jargon or high level analysis. A good guideline for a clear and direct hypothesis statement is to aim to keep the hypothesis to 20 words or less.
  • Testable Through Experimentation
An effective hypothesis is one that can be tested. In other words, the students need to be able to test "what they do" and "what will happen."

After the preliminary research is complete, guide students to construct a hypothesis, or an educated guess, on the outcome of the experiments. The hypothesis must be worded so that it can be tested in the experiment.

Identify the independent and dependent variables. The independent variable is the variable that will change during the experiment to test the hypothesis. The dependent variable is the variable you observe. Changes in the dependent variable depend on changes in the independent variable.

Example: Raising the temperature of a cup of coffee will increase the amount of sugar that dissolves.

The temperature is the independent variable.

The amount of sugar is the dependent variable.

  • An “If-Then” Statements
Finally, reword the hypothesis as an if-then statement, using the independent and dependent variables, and make sure it states the prediction and not the question.

“If _____ [I do this] ________, then __________ [this] _____ will happen.”

Example: “If the students and teachers in our school wash their hands more often, then less people will get the flu.”


For more tips and guidelines, check out the Help Section of the eCYBERMISSION web site. There you will find examples of winning Mission Folders, the Team Advisor User’s Guide, Team Advisor’s Best Practices Guide and Virtual Judge Comments.


To view previous Mission Folder Tips, check out the links below.

Mission Folder Tip #1 - Scientific Method
Mission Folder Tip #2 - Jump Start Your Research

Good Luck!

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