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Of the forty science activity types that have been identified to date, twenty-eight are focused upon helping students build their knowledge of science concepts and procedures.  Seventeen of the knowledge-building activity types emphasize conceptual learning and eleven of these involve procedural knowledge employed in science learning. Twelve of the activity types describe activities that facilitate students’ knowledge expression. The three sets of activity types (conceptual knowledge building, procedural knowledge building, and knowledge expression) are presented in the tables that follow, including compatible technologies that may be used to support each type of learning activity. The technologies listed in the tables are meant to be illustrative.  The taxonomy authors do not necessarily endorse the specific software titles and/or Web sites listed.

Conceptual Knowledge Building Activity Types

As the table of activity types below shows, teachers have a variety of options available to assist students in building science conceptual knowledge.

Table 1: Conceptual Knowledge Building Activity Types

Activity Type

Brief Description

Possible Technologies

Read Text

Students extract information from textbooks, laboratories, etc.; both print-based and digital formats

Web sites, electronic books, online databases, magazines


Attend to Presentation/


Students gain information from teachers, guest speakers, and peers; in person or via video, oral or multimedia

Presentation software, document camera, video

Take Notes

Students record information from lecture, presentation, group work

Word processing software, wiki, concept mapping software

View Images/Objects

Students examine both still and moving (e.g., video, animations) images/objects; print-based or digital format

Document camera, digital microscope, digital camera, video,(e.g., documentaries or debates), Web sites


Students engage in dialogue with one or more peers or the entire class; synchronous/asynchronous

Online discussion forum, email, chat, blog, videoconferencing, interactive white board

Participate in a Simulation

Students interact with live or digital simulations that enable students to explore science content

Curriculum software, Web-based simulations, student response system (“clickers”)

Explore a Topic/Conduct  background research

Students gather information/conduct background research using print-based and digital sources

Web search engines, digital archives


Students study terminology, classifications, test review, etc.

Web sites, quiz software, online  text supplements, wiki

Observe Phenomena

Students observe phenomena that raise scientific questions from physical objects, organisms, or digital media

Video clips, digital microscope, document camera, presentation software

Distinguish Observations from Inferences

Students distinguish directly observed sensory input from inferences requiring background knowledge

Interactive whiteboard, document camera, video clips, audio recording

Develop Predictions, Hypotheses, Questions, Variables

Students develop/think about predictions and select pertinent hypotheses, testable questions, and variables

Word processing software, interactive whiteboard, concept mapping software, wiki

Select Procedures

Students select procedures and accompanying instruments to test hypotheses and/or answer questions

Probeware, digital stirrer, video/audio recorder, digital camera, digital timer, graphing calculator

Sequence Procedures

Students sequence the order of procedures to collect relevant data

Simulation, curriculum software, word processing software

Organize/Classify Data

Students create a structure to organize data collected

Database, spreadsheet, concept mapping software

Analyze Data

Students recognize patterns, describe relationships, understand cause-and-effect, prioritize evidence, determine possible sources of error/discrepancies, etc.

Spreadsheet, TinkerPlots, graphing calculator, statistical software

Compare Findings with Predictions/ Hypotheses

Students evaluate their findings in relation to their hypotheses

Spreadsheet, TinkerPlots, InspireData

Make Connections between Findings & Science Concepts/Knowledge

Students link their findings to concepts in the text/research publications



Web search engines


Procedural Knowledge Building Activity Types

In science classrooms, building conceptual knowledge frequently requires that students use materials and “process” skills (Millar & Driver, 1987) as they develop scientific knowledge.  The essential features of classroom inquiry promoted by the National Science Education Standards often engage students in procedures and the use of scientific equipment (NRC, 2000).  We term this kind of understanding procedural knowledge, as detailed in the table below.

Table 2: Procedural Knowledge Building Activity Types

Activity Type

Brief Description

Possible Technologies

Learn and Practice Safety Procedures

Students learn how to safely and appropriately handle equipment

Video clips, document camera


Students learn how to make measurements appropriately with specific tools (e.g., graduated cylinder, motion sensor)

Probeware, content-specific interactive tools (e.g., ExploreScience)


Students practice using equipment, software, measuring, testing what they have designed, etc.

Web-based software or software tutorials, probeware, document camera

Prepare/Clean Up

Students organize equipment or information for the laboratory

Document camera, projector

Carry Out Procedures

Students run trials or otherwise carry out steps to investigations (e.g. use an electronic balance)

Simulation, curriculum software


Students make observations from physical or digital experiences

Document camera, WebCam, digital/video cameras, digital microscopes

Record Data

Students record observational and previously recorded data in tables, graphs, images, lab notes

Spreadsheet, word processing software, database, handheld computer, tablet computer

Generate Data

Students generate data (e.g. heart rate, cooling water temperatures) by manipulating equipment or animations

Curriculum software, graphing calculators, probeware, digital balance

Collect Data

Students collect data with physical objects or simulations

Graphing calculators, video, audio, digital cameras, digital microscope, Web-based data sets

Collect Samples

Students obtain samples/items to study (e.g., soil, bird songs, video footage)

Digital cameras, videos, audio recorder


Students calculate results from data


Scientific calculator, spreadsheet


Knowledge Expression Activity Types

While in many cases teachers may want their students to express similar understandings of course content, at other times they will want to encourage students to develop and express their own understandings of a given topic. The following twelve knowledge expression activity types afford students opportunities to share and further develop current understandings of concepts, procedures, and relationships.

Table 3: Knowledge Expression Activity Types

Activity Type

Brief Description

Possible Technologies

Respond to questions

Students respond to teacher-supplied, peer-written, published, or digitally posed questions (e.g., that require short answers, explanations, or elaborations)

Curriculum software, word processing software, quiz software, Web sites, online discussion forum

Write a Report

Students write a laboratory or research report

Word processing software, presentation software, video creation software, wiki, podcast

Create an Image

Students create an image to demonstrate their knowledge of a science concept and/or process

Drawing software, digital camera, comic creation software,

Present or Demonstrate

Students present or demonstrate laboratory or research findings, or other course learning (e.g. a system of the human body)

Presentation software, video creation software, document camera, podcast, Glogster

Take a Quiz or Test

Students respond to questions on a test or quiz

Curriculum software, word processor, quiz software, Web sites, student response system


Students discuss opposing viewpoints embedded in science content knowledge, linked to ethics, nature of science, personal preferences, politics, etc.

Videoconferencing, discussion board, personal/student response system

Develop or Build a Model

Students physically or digitally create models to demonstrate content knowledge, conduct experiments, etc. (e.g. cell model, rubber band car)

Modeling software, drawing tool, concept mapping software

Draw/Create Images

Students physically or digitally draw or create images (from labs, observations, etc.)

Drawing software, digital camera, image editing software

Develop a Concept Map

Students participate in or develop graphic organizers, semantic maps, etc.

Concept mapping software, interactive whiteboard, drawing software

Play a Game

Students participate in games; group or individual; digital or physical; original or pre-made.

Curriculum software, personal/student response system, web-based games

Develop a Game

Students develop a physical or digital interactive game

Word processing software, web authorizing software, videogame development software (e.g. MIT Media Lab)


Students create and/or perform a script, rap, song, poem, collection, poster, invention, exhibit, etc.

Video, audiorecorder, digital camera, document camera, word processing software, Glogster, video creation software, wiki, Web authoring software, presentation software


Millar, R. & Driver, R. (1987). Beyond processes. Studies in Science Education, 14, 33-62.

National Research Council. (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Blanchard, M. R., Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2011, February). Science learning activity types. Retrieved from College of William and Mary, School of Education, Learning Activity Types: http://activitytypes.wm.edu/Science.html

   “Science Learning Activity Types” by Margaret R. Blanchard, Judi Harris and Mark Hofer is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License
. Based on a work at http://activitytypes.wm.edu.