Encyclopedia of Science Education

Living Edition
| Editors: Richard Gunstone


  • Robin MillarEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6165-0_456-2


Intervention; Hypothesis testing; Practical work

The word “experiment” is used in different contexts to mean different things. School pupils, in the UK anyhow, often use it to mean any practical activity that they undertake in a science lesson. Teachers and science educators often talk about “experiments” in a similarly general way. Practical activities used in science teaching, however, differ widely in their aims and purposes and not all are “experiments.”

The philosopher of science, Ian Hacking (1983), characterizes an experiment as an intervention – where someone (a scientist or a school student) does something in order to create a phenomenon that can then be observed, either qualitatively or quantitatively (by making measurements). This contrasts with situations where data are collected by observing an event or phenomenon that is happening anyhow. In some sciences (physics, chemistry, some aspects of biology), experiments are the dominant form of investigation. In other...


Science Education Laboratory Work Double Helix Practical Work Practical Activity 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of YorkHeslington, YorkUK