EI and "Interactive Research"
Scientists build on each other's work.
EI aims to provide analogous opportunities for high school students to base their research questions on what has already been learned in the field. When time constraints make it impossible to carry out a series of experiments, students still can experience the cumulative and interactive aspects of research without having to carry out every step of the process themselves.
For example, if you save student research reports from one year to the next, students can design their experiments based on results and recommendations made by previous student researchers, then conclude by making their own recommendations to next year's students. Students who are planning bioassay experiments can start by reading online research reports posted by students who have gone through EI's web-based peer review process.
Rather than each class starting their research from square one, students model professional scientific practice by starting with an analysis of what has already been accomplished in the field. In carrying out these steps, students not only improve their understandings of their own research, they also gain a broader understanding of the ways in which scientists work both individually and collaboratively.
Research commonly begins with informal explorations.
Based on considerations of curriculum, scheduling, and student ability levels, interactive research may consist of a single investigation or a series of iterations. Ideally, students carry out preliminary investigations, and then use the results of these explorations to reassess their focus and experimental design. They might decide to carry out additional exploratory level investigations or to use what they have learned to design a more rigorous experiment with clearly defined hypothesis, dependent and independent variables, and replicates for each treatment.
Peer review is integral to science.
In schools, peer review of student research reports can provide similar opportunities for students to think critically as they question their own and each other's experimental designs, assumptions, results, interpretations, and conclusions. Peer review is an integral component of interactive research. After students have planned an experiment, they will benefit from meeting in pairs or small groups to discuss their ideas and exchange written feedback. A more formal type of peer review comes after students have completed their experiments. At this point, peer review provides a forum for critical evaluation of research results and helps students to improve the quality of their reports or poster presentations.