HSC investigating science

Current students, with the HSC behind them, will step in to a remarkable, uncharted landscape.

What will be the major economic drivers -and economic climate- in 20 years? Since we’re talking about science, how even will the Earth’s *actual* climate look in 20 years?!

Societal transformation is outpacing 13-year education blocks: It’s hard to see the future details of the world surrounding year 12 from the one surrounding kindergarten.

Today’s students will eventually enter roles, even career sectors, that don’t exist yet – the details of their work-lives and requisite skillsets, not imaginable.

Many of today’s jobs won’t exist down the road. In their place, abstract, digital, global jobs, based on new technologies (who’d have predicted the iPhone 20 years ago?).

Current generations can anticipate changing careers and tracks through their working lives. It’s exciting – and the question students have is:

“What should I do right now to self-power success in the shifting landscape ahead?”

Investigating Science reflects two things noticed by Australian education researchers:

Number 1: The biggest societal issues on the horizon, to be met head-on by younger generations across different industries, are scientific/innovative/technological.

Think pollution, energy, climate and future problems that aren’t known yet.

We’re seeing industries in these areas establishing right now.

Research, problem-solving, innovation, reason, adaptation and lateral thinking are going to be big game-changers for success-chasers.

Number 2: Australia’s been losing its footing in STEM, having previously invented/set-up global industries like: Ultrasound, Cochlear Implants, Wifi, the electric drill, refrigeration, aircraft black boxes and plastic bank notes among others.

Science will be the creator and solver of major global problems; its entanglement with politics/economics will become a big part of the human experience as science and society plead with each other.

Investigating Science is a course on the scientific process/thinking that drives the STEM-related areas.

It looks at the reasoning and problem-tackling strategy that led to the following things all working pretty well: trains/planes/cars, cancer cures, electricity, sanitation, fertilisers, antibiotics, vaccines, MRI machines, computers, mobile phones, nuclear bombs, genetic modification, coal power, spaceflight and A.I., to name a few.

Learning about modes of thinking that have proved very fruitful in problem-tackling in innovative fields in the past is a great way to start activating higher innovative skills.

If you want to end up in STEM or in science communication, science journalism or science education this stuff is made for you!

If you want to end up in a job entangled with technology and research (like medicine or tech companies), or which requires evidence-based decision-making, Investigating Science is a great add-on for those paths too

What are the general changes to the Science Syllabuses?

All science courses have become much more focused around key concept areas, to empower post-school study. The new syllabuses build ground-up around central pillars, expansively. Old syllabuses were more driven by disjointed snippets.

By depth-studying major foundations, you’ll carry away a highly integrated conceptual understanding that can be used as the machinery for learning upwards at Uni.

But, shooting for focused mastery asks a higher level of discipline of students, to arrive at the end and collect the rewards!

Be aware that while you’re always building upwards, the new syllabus expects great things from you on the way up!

So, what exactly does Investigating Science look like?

  Module 1 Module 2 Module 3 Module 4
Year 11 Cause and Effect – Observing Cause and Effect – Inferences/Generalisations Scientific Models Theories and Laws
Year 12 Scientific Investigations Technologies Fact or Fallacy? Science and Society

Let’s unpack that:

Year 11 is all about the entire business of evidence-based thinking/collection/analysis – powerful for lawyers and decision-making leaders.

The second half (modules 3, 4) is about the frameworks-of-thinking we build out of evidence – theories, models, laws. This is surprisingly a lot like business models built on theories of consumer behaviour/psychology.

Year 12 explores scientific self-critique (can we punch holes in an experimental method? Does it test what it says? Is it fraud? Is it pseudoscience?), and the technology ↔ science discovery loop (imagine the questions inventing the microscope lifted the curtain on!).

The course finishes with a bang by leaving you with some deep thoughts about the role of science, as wielded by us, in its entanglement with society and human issues.

Check out the NESA Syllabus for Investigating Science here!

So, lay the first year on the table for me, what are we dealing with here if I sign up?!

Module 1: Cause and Effect – Observing

Key Inquiry Questions:

The doing of science –all its falling dominos of discovery- is first kicked off by some curious mind observing some curious thing from a new viewpoint.

How long we observed the sky with our eyes before some bright spark asked, “What if it just *looks like* Earth’s at the centre?!

How data (sometimes collected by some new tech – like a telescope or Hadron Collider) can be interpreted and presented to attack a hypothesis validly; and how the conclusions and data can launch new inquiry questions…

Imagine the dominos that fell when telescopes were first pointed at things we assumed were stars which were not stars...

Module 2: Cause and Effect – Inferences and Generalisations

Key Inquiry Lines of Questioning:

How others’ data is brought in to ground hypothesis-formation in a basis of reason (do their findings launch another investigation??); and to in/validate a chosen experimental method.

How the scientific method tries to account for the distorting/mis-interpreting biases of the human brain as the lens/filter all evidence must pass through, by doing peer-review.

Great stuff for future high-powered thinkers and decision-makers!

Module 3: Scientific Models

All of science consists of constantly-updating models that seem to be pretty good at re-drawing reality.

A quick google of “unsolved science problems” will pull up things like “How big is the Universe, what shape is it and what’s making it expand so quickly? Also, are there other Universes and dimensions and why does time go forwards only?

Many of our models are apparently incomplete!

It’s also an incomplete picture when you represent chemical molecules with balls and sticks stuck together – but they’re also powerfully useful at making correct predictions about what things the molecules will do when they meet/react.

Module 4: Theories and Laws

The year rounds off by tying the other modules together.

Theories” are the data/evidence, models (with great predictive power) and hypotheses that just won’t die all pulled together in to a joined-up framework of understanding that seems to simulate well something that happens in the Universe, like chemical reactions, or earthquakes, or diseases spreading.

Weirdly, “laws” are just a small part of “theories”. e.g. Newton’s Law of Gravitation is just a piece sitting in the overall picture (the theory of gravity). 

What important skills will I get out of Investigating Science?

Having an end-goal outside science does not mean this subject is irrelevant to you!

The fact is that big, emerging industries are highly engaged with science and the technologies driving their products. If you’re in a business administration or marketing role, understanding these sides of business is a leg-up.

Evidence-based decision making and Analytical problem-solving skills

There’s probably more misinformation than information in the world today and minds trained to be both open and sceptical are powered problem-solvers.

Investigative and reporting mastery

Key sections are about how to carry out an investigation validly, and how to communicate/represent and report findings. There’s massive cross-over here with the other science subjects and they’ll mutually reinforce each other.

Great companion for the other STEM subjects.

The other science/engineering HSC courses are a bit too busy handling the guts of their science to have the luxury of delving in to the fascinating philosophy behind the art of doing science (and how great this process seems to be at getting thigs to just work – like aeroplanes and internet – why should the methods work so well?!).

Investigating Science gives you a chance to start laying down skills as a researcher, experimenter and report-writer, which enable you across the other HSC sciences and at Uni: If you take any science at Uni, a very significant part of your course will be experimentation and report-writing. 

Fantastic for career paths that directly spin-off science.

As Science issues increasingly enter the public sphere, this is going to become a highly-relevant career pathway. Investigating Science gives you a great grounding in all the things science educators, science writers and science communicators will spend their future talking about.

So, who should be taking Investigating Science in 2019?

Of course, anyone who’s interested in Investigating Science should take the course in 2019. However, this course will be particularly useful and interesting to:

1. Students aiming for work within tech industries


2. Students taking other HSC sciences (the subjects will bolster each other)


3. Students shooting for Uni-level STEM.


4. Students aiming for work on tracks that branch out from STEM e.g. Science Communication


5. People who want to contribute to a reason-empowered society and be an evidence-based decision maker

Are you looking for some extra help with HSC Science in 2019?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational Science coaches and mentors!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a large variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today! 

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Facebook!

Adrian Wendeborn is a qualified science and maths teacher with a physics/chemistry double-major degree from USYD and a GDipEd from UQ. Adrian has taught in QLD and NSW and has worked with Art of Smart Education as a campus teacher, tutor, resource developer and Head of Faculty.