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Hypothesis testing is the kind of reasoning that supports the scientific method, though it is applied in many other areas, and not just science. It covers the kinds of strategies that make it possible for us to
  • formulate hypotheses to cover observations,
  • make predictions based upon our hypotheses,
  • conduct experiments to confirm them, and
  • evaluate and communicate experimental results to others.

The hypothesized development of these skills is presented in Development Table 16.

The resulting skill set supports rational inquiry in which people try to build models to cover and explain observations, and it is used in a variety of scientific and technical modes of discourse. It also plays a key role in generating interpretations of complex situations that are not fully described or captured in a single text, and corresponds to the Science/Technical branch of the Common Core State Standards.

Literature Note - Hypothesis Testing

Development Table 16. Hypotheses about the Development of Hypothesis-Testing Skills

(oral to sentence)
Can distinguish between speculation, observed facts, and hypotheses.
Can apply these distinctions to evaluate the credibility of information in an informational text.
Can deploy hypothesis-formation strategies in which one postulates a cause that could have led to observed facts.
Can write simple sentence-length explanations that present a plausible cause or reason for an observation.
(sentence to paragraph)
Can distinguish between hypotheses and theories.
Can distinguish reasons to credit information (observation; authority; inference from previously accepted facts or theories).
Can apply these distinctions to evaluate the credibility of information in an informational text.
Can deploy confirmatory strategies in which one generates a prediction from a hypothesis and then runs some kind of simple test or fact check to see whether the prediction is confirmed.
Can write simple paragraph-length explanations that present a hypothesis, present predictions that follow from the hypothesis, and then provide evidence whether the predictions can be confirmed or disconfirmed.
(paragraph to text)
Can infer the connections between the different parts of a scientific text, identifying hypotheses and predictions, explaining the reason for particular procedures or protocols, and determining whether the results confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis.
Can follow protocol-based strategies in which one follows a well-defined, precise procedure designed to control the conditions necessary to confirm or disconfirm a prediction and document both what one did and what happened as a result.
Can write extended experimental reports and analyses that document evidence supporting a theory and provide enough information to allow another person to replicate the experiment.
(text to context)
Can integrate information from a range of sources (direct observations, simulations, experiments, secondary literature, and textbooks) and in a variety of formats (including text, graphs, tables, video, and audio) to build a coherent mental model of a causal process.
Can follow literature-search strategies in which one defines hypotheses that have been advanced and lines of research that have sought to confirm or disconfirm their predictions.
Can write a theoretical synthesis laying forth the key terms and concepts in a domain, explaining major causal processes, and summarizing supporting experiments and evidence.
(text and context to discourse)
Can recognize anomalies and unexpected results when they are reported in a scientific text, using one’s knowledge of theory and literature to define appropriate expectations.
Can follow hypothesis-testing strategies in which one defines alternative hypotheses, each of which can explain the facts one wishes to account for, and devise experiments and procedures that will make it possible to determine which hypothesis best fits the facts.
Can write a theoretical argument considering alternative hypotheses and laying out the empirical evidence that would favor one hypothesis over the others.

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