Predict, Observe, Explain
POE strategy was developed by White and Gunstone (1992)
to uncover individual students’ predictions, and
their reasons for making these, about a specific event.
Reference: White, R. T., & Gunstone, R. F. (1992).
Probing Understanding. Great Britain: Falmer
POE is a strategy often used in science. It works best
with demonstrations that allow immediate observations,
and suits Physical and Material World contexts. A similar
strategy also works well in mathematics, particularly
can be used for:
finding out students' initial ideas;
providing teachers with information about students’
motivating students to want to explore the concept;
theories of learning consider that students’ existing
understandings should be considered when developing
teaching and learning programmes. Events that surprise
create conditions where students may be ready to start
re-examining their personal theories.
the strategy works
students are asked to predict first what will happen,
they may not observe carefully.
Writing down their prediction motivates them to want
to know the answer.
Asking students to explain the reasons for their predictions
gives the teacher indications of their theories. This
can be useful for uncovering misconceptions or developing
understandings they have. It can provide information
for making decisions about the subsequent learning.
Explaining and evaluating their predictions and listening
to others’ predictions helps students to begin
evaluating their own learning and constructing new
Set up a demonstration of an event, related to the
focus topic, that may surprise students, and which
can be observed.
Tell the students what you are going to be doing.
Ask the students to independently write their prediction
of what will happen.
Ask them what they think they will see and why they
Carry out the demonstration.
Allow time to focus on observation.
Ask students to write down what they do observe.
Ask students to amend or add to their explanation
to take account of the observation.
After students have committed their explanations to
paper, discuss their ideas together.
generate your own POEs
that contain science “experiments” are often
a good source of appropriate activities for adapting
to POE, including old teaching resources that promote
transmission teaching. They often include an explanation.
template is provided for teachers
to give to students to write on. To adapt the template,
save in your own files, and make appropriate changes.
primary school students, writing the answer can be
a barrier to useful communication of ideas. Oral responses
need to be managed so other group members do not initially
influence students. (Use Think-Pair-Share, for example,
before sharing with the whole group.)
primary students may have difficulty explaining their
is not suitable for all topics, for example, topics
that are not "hands-on" or in which it is
difficult to get immediate results (for example, Living
the POE strategy is used often, some demonstrations
should be chosen to not give surprising results, otherwise
students start looking for the trick. This may affect
the explanations they give.
researchers say that students are more likely to learn
from observations that confirm their predictions.
This cautions us to be careful that predictions are
not wild guesses. A joint conversation about what
we might expect to see, and why, based on the underlying
science idea, could help avoid this trap.
D. (1995). The POE in the primary school: An evaluation.
Research in Science Education, 25 (3), 323-332.
Hipkins, R., & Kenneally, N. (2003). Using
NEMP to inform the teaching of scientific skills.
of ARB resources that use the POE strategy
than the teacher demonstrating to the whole class,
small groups can carry out the activity themselves.
It is more difficult for the teacher to monitor the
discussion, but does allow for students to observe
some students it may be more appropriate to ask for
oral responses, for example, young or ESOL students.
the students are unfamiliar with the underlying concept,
or are very young, provide options from which they
mathematics the students investigate, rather than
that use the Predict-Observe-Explain
of focus of demonstration
(e.g., What will happen when you put an upside down
jar over a lighted candle?)
Write or draw all the things you think you will
Write the reasons why you think it will happen this
Draw or describe what you did see.
Add to or change your ideas about why it happened.
strategies | ARB