Air pollution #4 -How is scientific research carried out?


Èlia Tena, Caterina Solé and Digna Couso


Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The aim of this activity is to develop students’ critical thinking about what we understand by high-quality research in science. This activity is conducted in two steps: (1) reflecting about different ways of answering a scientific question; and (2) analysing the processes of carrying out research using quality criteria such as: validity, reliability, and usefulness.


  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15


  • Air pollution


  • Between 1-2 hours

Students’ resources

The following hypothetical scenario is presented to the students:

“A group of students from another secondary school wanted to know how the air quality in their high school is. To do so, they did a brainstorming in which different ideas to answer the question emerged.”

Students’ then need to analyse the results of the brainstorming to identify and justify which proposals are best and worst suited to answer the question. After reflecting and listing arguments individually, students share their ideas with their classmates.

After that, three different examples of research to measure air quality are presented to them. In different groups, students need to analyse the quality of each research presented and identify how it can be improved. To do so, students utilise a scaffolding tool with different questions that could help them to analyse, evaluate and justify the quality attributed to each example.

Teachers’ resources

As part of the materials, tables are included to underline, on the one hand, concrete questions to guide the students’ discussion and, on the other, the main ideas to be identified and discussed in both steps: Step 1 – reflecting on different ways of answering a question, Step 2 – analysing and identifying how to improve research done by others.