WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate Professor, Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto

Procedural Education
Developing Expertise for
'Judging Ideas'

Experiments vs. Correlational Studies

Welcome! This page provides perspectives, general practices and links to resources for helping students to develop expertise regarding experiments and correlational studies. Such inquiries enable students to Judge Ideas, which is a major phase of my constructivism-informed pedagogical framework. If you have comments, questions, suggestions, resource ideas, etc. about anything here, please write to me about them. Thanks.
Expts. vs. Studies.

Experiments vs. Correlational Studies
Scientists and engineers commonly gather data in order to support their cause-effect claims about the world. There are two general ways of doing this; i.e., through experiments and correlational studies. As shown at right, an experiment is where the investigator forces the independent (cause) variable to change and then measures changes in the resulting dependent variable. In a correlational study, the investigator does not force changes in the independent variable. S/he, instead, measures or describes natural changes in the independent variables and then measures changes in the dependent variable. So, to investigate how temperature (independent) may affect the rate of decay of food, we can either purposely change the temperature (e.g., 0, 5, 10 etc.) or measure it as we come across it in the environment (e.g., 31, 34, 11, etc.). Note that, because the values of the independent variable (temp) are collected in a random order in a study, they have to be organized into an orderly sequence when making a graph.

There are various approaches for helping students to develop skills they could use for conducting experiments and/or studies, but resources here are based on the constructivism-based approach at Skills Pedagogy. Accordingly, resources are provided for helping students to express their pre-instructional skills for science inquiry (on this page) and to develop skills for conducting experiments and studies (on two separate pages).

All rights reserved, J. L. Bencze, 2011.