Sampling techniques/Document

From OER in Education


The pedagogical purpose of this lesson is to offer:

  • An opportunity for students to analyse a real, quite demanding scientific publication. There is no need to fully understand each piece, but students can learn to skim the material and extract what is relevant.
  • An opportunity for students to work in a team, be critical of their colleagues work and to improve each others’ information retrieval skills.
  • An opportunity for students to present the results of their investigation to the class.

This lesson offers teachers different sets of ecological sampling examples to extend their lesson portfolio. As the investigation uses ICT, students may work independently and in groups. There are numerous opportunities within the lesson to assess students as they offer information, analyse information, contribute to the team and deliver their presentation.

Students need to analyse complex data and extract the relevant information. They will also have to collaborate within their team to produce the results for the final presentation. The second round of ICT work should enable students to add to the knowledge collected by the team. Finally, students have the opportunity to present their data to the class.

Whilst this is a science lesson it also uses ICT. The class should be divided into groups of four students. Each group should have at least one student who can lead the group work. It is recommended that less able or less motivated students be spread across different groups. The following is a guide to how the lesson may be delivered in a one-hour session.

The Plan

Organism one

  1. Starter - the teacher explaining the task, allocating student roles, dividing class into teams of four for the investigation, allocating roles and explaining task. Introduce the presentation poster idea (5 minutes)
  2. Research - worksheets and scientific articles are provided for four organisms of interest (butterfly, oak, whale and zebra). Students use the articles to research ONE online and answer the questions. They collect information on their worksheet (20 minutes).
  3. The teams return to their original place to exchange information found during the research. They start their presentation poster with information that has been collected from the research (5 minutes)

Organism two

  1. An opportunity for students to research a second organism using different scientific articles and add information to the first round of research (15 minutes).
  2. The teams meet and add the relevant information to their poster, finalising their presentation (5 minutes).
  3. Plenary during which the groups present to the rest of the class their research on one of the sampling techniques and the teacher asks directed questions (10 minutes).

Types of learning

The lesson followed a series of practical investigations in the school grounds. During these previous lessons students experienced a variety of sampling techniques such as use of quadrants, leaf litter sampling, ‘tree beating’ sampling and so on. This lesson puts those sampling techniques into an unfamiliar ‘real life’ scenario.

This lesson offers the opportunity to expand the following learning scenarii:

  • Analysis of scientific articles to support exploration and data analysis.
  • Collaborative learning in a group as they prepare a poster together.
  • Consolidation as they research a second organism.
  • Presentation of the poster supports presentations skills.
  • Small group work during the group investigation and reporting to the class.
  • Whole class dialogue, as they discuss each of the different organisms.
  • Open ended questions, as the teacher probes as to why one sampling technique is different to another (“How do you explain the x result…?”).
  • Peer assessment. Does the groups agree with an analysis made by others?
  • Project work, as students explore different sampling techniques.
  • Inquiry-based learning, when the initial presentation to the class is framed as a problem for students to solve.
  • Co-enquiry, as students work collaboratively.
  • Arguing & reasoning, as the students discuss, debate & persuade for consensus.
  • Exploring ideas, as the understanding of scientific principles and the need for different sampling techniques develop.

Tips for the teacher

Pitfalls and Tips

  • Group your students well.
  • Provide enough space for the groups to meet and fill in the poster.
  • Allow sufficient time for the students plenary presentation and potential questioning.
  • The students work independently most of the time so it is necessary to provide good supervision to ensure that they remain on task.
  • The scientific articles are quite challenging so able students may need encouragement and help to skim the information.
  • Less able students are provided with a differentiated worksheet that helps them answer the questions.


This is an investigation involving group work and a poster presentation. The lesson should increase the students understanding of sampling methods and expose them to real scientific use of these methods. It follows students' practical experience with sampling methods and is the last in a sequence of lessons on sampling techniques.


Each task has differentiated material to support less able students.

About the resource files

Each organism has 4 documents where N represents: B (Butterfly), O (Oak), W (Whale) or Z (Zebra)

N1 – the leading questions
N2 – the differentiated material that may help the less able to answer the questions
N3 – a word document copy of the web based article if no ICT is available or if the article is not available online
N4 – a truncated word document of the original article to be used as differentiated material. The text contains the parts relevant to answer the leading questions from the original article

Black oak task
O1 questions Black Oak sampling
O2 differentiated material Oak tree
O3 Oak tree sampling article
O4 Oak tree sampling differentiated article

Butterflies task
B1 questions butterflies sampling
B2 differentiated material butterflies
B3 butterflies sampling article

Zebra task
Z1 questions Plain Zebra sampling
Z2 differentiated material Plain zebra
Z3 Plain Zebra sampling article
Z4 Plain Zebra sampling differentiated article

Whale task
W1 sperm whale sampling
W2 differentiated material Sperm whale
W3 sperm whale sampling
W4 sperm whale sampling differentiated article
Information poster A3 page – PowerPoint page to print and enlarge to A3 size. One per group.
Tags - PowerPoint pages to produce ‘expert’ tags for the different organisms (optional resource)