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"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

What Can Be Learned When Experiments Fail?


If you have been doing some science experiments, and it seems like they keep failing and you just want to quit doing them, this post is for you.
Chemical Reactions

The first thing you should do if your experiment or scientific demonstration fails, is to look through your experiment carefully and make sure that you used exactly the materials that the project called for and that you followed the procedures exactly. Making a substitution, even if you thought it would work, may have caused an unexpected result.

And so, you have looked at the experiment and you believe you have followed it to a "T". Now what do you do? By doing some additional research, you might be able to uncover the problem. Perhaps the experiment as written is wrong. That happens sometimes, or perhaps you misinterpreted something in the experiment. By reading background material or similar experiments, you might find the problem.
By looking at background material, you might also discover that the experiment went correctly but your hypothesis was just incorrect.

If you still can't discover why the experiment failed, look at your variables. Did you inadvertently change something in the experiment? Sometimes something as simple as the weather can change the results of an experiment. Look closely at your controls. What can they tell you about what happened in the experiment?


Just because the experiment failed, it doesn't mean your science program has failed. If you follow these steps with your student, he is sure to learn a lot, and that is the ultimate goal, isn't it?

Lots of experiments fail, even when scientists do them. Sometimes the failed experiments are the beginning of a new discovery. Don't let the "failed" experiment get you down or make you want to experiment less. It is the process that is important.
Seeing Rainbows

4 comments:

  1. Great advice and wonderful quotes here, Phyllis! We have had so many unsuccessful experiments that we have learnt from our own experiences that mistakes are part and parcel of the learning process! :-)

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  2. I love this! Thank you for sharing.

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  3. Always good to read a post like this when you've just failed in a whole series of experiments and demonstrations. I got a bunch of writing done this weekend, now I'm working on editing the pictures involved in the process.

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  4. One day (very soon) I will actually do some science to post here!

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