This summer has not slowed down the learning for our teachers! Ms. Lowrie and Mrs. Martinez went to the Science Inquiry Institute hosted by EMS-ISD on June 16-18. Here's what they learned about incorporating inquiry into the science classroom.
Are You Missing the Shift?
“Students typically do not develop science literacy and do not understand the role and relevance of science in society.” (John Kubicek, 2005) WOW, an unsettling statement to say to the least. However, Science Inquiry is a pedagogy that fosters authentic science acquisition.
What is Science Inquiry?
Science Inquiry results in students taking ownership of their learning and driving them to further investigations. Best practices teach us that the person doing “the most talking is doing the most learning”. Science Inquiry is the medium for learners to ask their own questions and find their own answers. Inquiry is not difficult to implement, it is just tweaking what we as teachers already do. The key is to teach the kids how to question and how to explore the answers to those questions.
Comparing Approaches to Hands-On Science:
Model A - Teacher Led Lesson. The teacher gives step by step instructions and the students follow. This leads to very little to outside discovery. It still allows the learner to experience hands-on activities, ask questions, and acquire new information but it is controlled and confined. There will be lessons that require this type of instruction. However, something to keep in mind with this approach is having them create their own data table immediately increases the rigor. It requires the learner to consider the end goal.
Model B - Teacher-Student Lesson. The teacher gives specifications and materials but the learners can be creative in reaching their end goal within a time limit. It is very important that materials given be intentional toward the direction you want discovery to go. The learners are given choices on procedures and results. A great piece of differentiation in this approach is that giving the learners choices allows your “early finishers” options of what to do when they are done. Just think, less “I’m done...what do I do now?”
Model C—Student Lesson. In this approach, which is considered a full Science Inquiry, the learner is in complete control of their learning. The learner controls the question or problem being addressed. They control the procedure or aspects of the procedure. They control the outcome. Again, the teacher needs to be intentional with the materials given to help lead the discovery.
Two critical pieces to successful Science Inquiry are the Process Circus (Process Skills) and Raising Questions. The two will take time to master but with practice authentic science will eventually take place effortlessly.
Process Skills, which some teachers will chalk up as the Scientific Method, is so much more than just a plan to follow. Not to discourage the teaching of the Scientific Method but one needs to remember science should be messy! The method should not necessarily be practiced in a “cookie cutter” order. Here are the process skills:
Planning & Investigating
How do the Process Skills look different when used with Science Inquiry? Be more intentional in how you plan so that the learner has more control. Identify the science process skills by what the learners actually do when they are using the skills.
Questioning drives the investigation process! There is definitely an art to Raising Questions and instructing learners to ask investigable questions is key to mastering a desirable learning target. Naturally, learners will ask non-investigable questions but teachers can instruct learners how to “turn” those type of questions into investigable questions.
Just Breathe! Teaching through Science Inquiry is not something that happens overnight but it is a gradual process to experience Science. Start out slow, for example teach a Model A Lesson, then progress to a Model B Lesson, and lastly attempt a Model C Lesson. Another example would be to commit to teach two full Science Inquiry lessons this year and each year commit to more. The benefits of Science Inquiry will long out last your intimidation.
Benefits such as:
*Learners taking many different paths to learn the same science content.
*Learning in a safe learning environment because it is a learner controlled environment.
* Utilizing the pedagogy of inquiry based learning in other subjects.
So, are you ready for the shift? The responsibility of learning to be shifted from the teacher to the learner?
As a guideline please consider the table when deciding the approach your lesson requires.
For more information please see Rachel Lowrie or Destina Martinez.
How do you plan to implement inquiry into your science classroom next year? In what ways can we incorporate these ideas in other content areas?