Instructional Strategies Science

How to Use Discrepent Events in Promoting The Processes of Science

What is a descrepant event?

Water is expected to run downhill, not uphill; ice is expected to melt at 0 degrees Celsius, not 10-15 degrees below 0. These are examples of discrepant events. Such events are best described as being unexpected, surprising, or paradoxical. A good discrepant event leaves the observer "wanting to know".

When using discrepant events to teach a lesson the following are the three general steps to employ:

  1. SET UP A DISCREPANT EVENT. The event is presented to gain attention, increase motivation, and encourage students to seek ways of solving the discrepancy. The stage is set for learning because they are faced with a question or problem they will want to solve.
  2. PUPILS INVESTIGATE TO SOLVE THE DISCREPANCY. Pupils will be anxious to seek an answer. They will often engage in the purposeful activities of observing, recording data, classifying, predicting, and experimenting.
  3. RESOLVE THE DISCREPANCY. Students will likely answer many of the questions posed by the discrepant event through their own investigations. They will have learned something about using the processes of science. By this time the students have a vested interest in the outcome. Even if they do not discover all the answers themselves they will still be more interested in hearing the explanation than they would be if it were some abstract principle from a book.

Friedl, Alfred E. (1995). Teaching Science to ChildrenNew York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.


From my point of view as a student/teacher this is the only way to teach science. It's fun, it's memorable and it teaches the students what they really need to know, how to get the answers. We, the teachers, can never teach students everything there is to know so we must teach them how to learn, research and discover independently.