Generating and testing hypotheses is not just for science

I’m right in the middle of facilitating a three-day workshop in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. We are just about to get to the Strategy of Generating and Testing Hypotheses. Out of the 30 participants, less than a handful have taught science. I can tell that I will need to do my best to show the power of this strategy for all content areas.

Often when we mention the words “hypotheses” and “testing” together, people automatically think we are talking about science. To be fair, we sometimes are talking about science, but not nearly as much as people think. Generating and testing hypotheses is just another way saying “predict and determine how good your prediction turned out.” It can be used in all sorts of teaching situations. For instance, a language arts teacher might be leading students through reading a novel and ask them to predict what actions the character will take next based on what they have read so far. Then as the read more, they discuss the accuracy of their predictions. Another example is a music teacher that teaches a unit on Blues music and then has students create their own simple blues song. Creating music includes making many lyrical and melodic predictions and testing them out. A final example is the social studies teacher that asks students a big question like “What would the World be like today if the Nazis had won World War II?” Students are then asked to predict and investigate the feasibility of their predictions in a persuasive essay. Notice how the strategy tends to involve higher level thinking skills near the upper reaches of Bloom’s Taxonomy? This is why we have to use it beyond just science class.

We could go on and on about more non-science examples, but we would like to hear from you. What non-science examples can you come up with for Generating and Testing Hypotheses?


  • I agree totally, Matt – generating and testing hypotheses = predicting results and analyzing data to reach conclusions. When students predict, it causes them to synthesize their knowledge and create a possible scenario.
    Any classroom benefits from predicting…
    Home & Careers students who predict the outcome of mixing certain ingredients in a recipe…
    Math students who use NASA FlybyMath simulations to predict solutions to flight simulations…(I think I got this one from your book :-) )…
    LOTE students read part of a story in the target language, predict the outcome, and write it themselves…
    Art students study the last few works of an artist, then predict what his/her next work might have been, and create it…
    Predicting can be downright fun!

  • Laura Varlas says:

    Our teacher blogger posted on this very topic, sharing examples of hypothesis generating in her English / Language Arts middle school classroom:

  • Janel W. says:

    Language Arts/English Examples:
    • Predict the ending of a story at the middle of the book asking students, “What do you think will happen next?” The testing happens when the student complete the story and find out if their hypothesis about the ending was accurate.
    • Students can learn about a debatable historical event and then make a hypothesis about what actually occurred. Student could then read two or more books with theories on the matter to test their hypothesis.
    • In a discussion group, talk about how characters in a novel reacted and hypothesize about how others, including the student, would react in that same situation.
    • Have the students brainstorm on the techniques that persuade people in a debate. Then have the student debate an issue using the techniques they hypothesized would work. Have the students reflect on the success of their debate based upon the techniques they and their opponents used.

  • Matt Kuhn says:

    Great examples Janel! I especially like the use of debate which brings in the strategy of Identifying Similarities and Differences. You can just feel the level of Bloom’s Taxonomy going through the roof.

  • Shawn Leach says:

    I often thought the same thing when I first saw the “generating and testing hypotheses”. This is just for science teachers, but boy was I wrong. I have been a facilitator for a parish lead course for the past three years which incorporates “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works.” During those three years teacher have created some great lessons. In ELA, teachers have shown pictures dealing with the short stories/novels they are reading in class and had the students predict what the outcome will be (using two strategies at the same time). In Social Studies, you can take any event in history and have students hypothesize changes that it could/could not have caused. The possibilities are endless.

  • Notice how the strategy tends to involve higher level thinking skills near the upper reaches of Bloom’s Taxonomy? This is why we have to use it beyond just science class.

  • Laura says:

    any ideas on how to “generate and test hypothesis” in teaching a foreign language? HELPPPP!!!

  • Matt Kuhn says:

    Hello Laura, using generating and test hypothesis in teaching a foreign language is a challenge, but I can think of one idea off the top of my head. Students could watch a segment of a soap opera or other show in the foreign language. Then they get in groups and try to predict what has occurred in the scene. They test this prediction by acting out their scene to the rest of the class and getting input from the class as to how accurate their portrayal seems to be. After the presentations, the teacher informs the class as to what really happened and who had the most accurate portrayal.

  • Laura says:

    anyone has more ideas on how to “generate and test hypothesis” in a Spanish 1 classroom? Please heellllpppp!

  • Suzi says:

    Does anyone have an idea for a 2nd grade math lesson?? Subtraction?
    I can’t figure out how to generate hypotheses in a lesson like this.

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