Importance of the formulation of hypothesis and design of experiments in introductory laboratories

  1. Ane Sarasola Iñiguez
  2. Marta Maria Huebra Ruiz
  3. José Luis Zubimendi Herranz
  4. Ana M. Ocariz Larrea
The International journal of engineering education

ISSN: 0949-149X

Year of publication: 2017

Volume: 33

Issue: 6

Pages: 1982-1990

Type: Article

More publications in: The International journal of engineering education


The scientific method is a basic and widely-used tool in many high-school and university laboratories. However, contraryto popular thought, what appears to be a simple and well-known methodology reveals its complexity when the students tryto carry out an open or ‘non-guided’ lab-activity. Practical laboratory sessions are often limited by the teaching context orthe uniformity of the experiments that the small lab-groups of students must carry out in each practical session. As aconsequence of this, the first steps of the scientific method, i.e., hypothesis proposal and the subsequent design of theexperiment are not usually defined by the students. Under these limiting conditions these two concepts—hypothesis anddesign—are usually presented to the students in a theoretical way instead of using an empirical approach. This work showsthat putting into practice these first steps of the research work requires understanding many subtle aspects and acquiringmastery over a period of one or more academic years. We show that the theoretical teaching of these concepts involvesmisconceptions and we propose an introductory practical session that improves students’ understanding.