Practice: Having Fun with Operational Definitions

One of the challenges instructors face when discussing conceptual and operational definitions of variables is helping students to understand that the operational definition of a variable involves measuring the variable in a concrete, quantitative manner.

The practice activity asks students to identify the relevant variables of interest and then suggest ways that these variables can be operationally defined within the context of the described research question.

This practice activity is particularly effective if done in small groups as the groups can share their different operational definitions, which emphasizes the point that there is no one “right” way of operationally defining a variable. This activity also provides an opportunity to reinforce students’ ability to identify independent and dependent variables.

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